Fight against galamsey: A-G saves $15.3m Heritage Imperial ‘galamsey’ judgment against State 

The High Court, Kumasi has set aside a $15.3 million judgement the court entered in favour of a mining company, Heritage Imperial.

This was after the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, GodfredYeboah Dame, filed an application for an order to set aside the judgement as a nullity because the high court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

In 2018, Heritage Imperial sued the government of Ghana over the invasion of its mining site in the Ashanti Region and seizure of its excavators by the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Illegal Mining.  

After a full trial, the court presided over by Justice Samuel Diawuo held on July 30, 2020, that, the invasion of the plaintiff’s mining site and the seizure of its excavators and equipment were unlawful. 

The court, as a result, ordered recovery of the sum of US$15,304,714.20 being the value of machinery and equipment seized from the plaintiff’s site by the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on illegal mining on December 6, 2018 or its current value in Cedis; general damages of GH¢500,000; and costs of GH¢100,000 against the government. 

However, on assumption of office as the Attorney-General in 2021, Mr Dame, filed an application for an order setting aside the judgment as a nullity as the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the action. 

He subsequently indicated in an answer to a question in Parliament about the judgment debt, that he only heard about the judgment for the first time, in a news programme on Joy FM, Newsfile.

Mr Dame explained that the matter had not been part of his schedule as a Deputy Attorney-General and therefore never came to his attention. 

Moving the application at the High Court, Kumasi on July 23, 2021, Mr Dame said there were a number of procedural flaws with the plaintiff’s action and contended that the commencement of the action by plaintiff without regard to the mandatory statutory stipulations of the State Proceedings Act, 1998 (Act 555), was unlawful.

He further contended that the order for payment by the government of the sum of $15,304,714.20, was manifestly unlawful and utterly without basis, as no endorsement on the writ of summons issued in action supported same.

 “In no part of either the writ of summons or the pleadings of the respondent did the respondent claim the sum of US$15,304,714.20 against the applicant herein,” Mr Dame stated. 

The Attorney-General also claimed that the failure of respondent, then plaintiff to claim the relief of $15,304,714.20 on its writ of summons was clearly intended to deceive the court and deprive the state of appropriate revenue, as appropriate filing fees were paid on the reliefs awarded to Heritage Imperial Company.

 The act of the plaintiff in concealing the specific cost of the equipment it alleged to have acquired, according to Mr Dame, was one calculated at overreaching not only the Court but also the government, and, therefore, ought not to be rewarded by a court of law and equity.

In a ruling on July 30, 2021, the court upheld the submissions of the Attorney-General and stated that a superior court had inherent jurisdiction to set aside its own judgment when same was plainly entered without jurisdiction or is offensive to any provision of the laws of Ghana.

Justice Diawuo said he considered the failure of the plaintiff to state the specific relief claimed by the plaintiff on its writ of summons a fundamental defect, especially as same resulted in the state being deprived of the fruits of the appropriate filing fees.


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