Mahama Ayariga case: Court to rule on 2 applications June 17

The Accra High Court will on Monday, June 17, 2019, give ruling on two applications filed by lawyers for the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, who is charged for alleged tax evasion and procurement breaches.

Mahama Ayariga

Mr Ayariga, whose plea is yet to be taken, has raised preliminary legal objection on the qualification of the Special Prosecutor (SP), Alamisi Burnes Kaizer Martin Amidu, and the propriety of three of the charges before the court.

The applicant is also challenging the capacity of the SP to handle procurement issues because the act that established the office explicitly stated that Mr Amidu can only investigate corruption related offences.

 The lawmaker, showed up at the Accra Financial High Court on June 4, 2019, together with seven others, in respect of two separate cases filed against him by the state.

Consequently, the court presided by Justice Effia Serwah Asare-Botwe, has directed counsel for the accused and the prosecution to simultaneously file legal arguments by 2pm on Wednesday June 12, 2019.

 The charges against Mr Ayariga, who came to court in the company of colleague minority MPs, were not read at the last adjourned date because of the two pending applications.  

The applications were filed by his counsel, Godwin Kodjo Edudzi Tamakloe.

Before proceedings began last week, Mr Tamakloe drew the court’s attention to a certificate issued by the Speaker of Parliament, Mike Aaron Quaye, filed with the registrar of the court, to the effect that Mr Ayariga was attending parliamentary proceedings.

The said certificate, which was issued pursuant to Article 118(2) of the 1992 Constitution, suggested the accused could not be arraigned while he attends to parliamentary business.

Article 118(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that, “Neither the Speaker, nor a member of, nor the Clerk to Parliament, shall be compelled while attending Parliament to appear as a witness in any court or place out of Parliament.

Clause (2) further provides that, “The certificate of the Speaker, that a member or the Clerk is attending the proceedings of Parliament, is conclusive evidence of attendance at Parliament.

But ruling on the certificate, Justice Asare-Botwe held that the legislator was in court as an accused, and not a witness, therefore, the two scenarios were distinct and should not be confused.

This is the first case filed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, since the office was established two years ago.

Meanwhile, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, who led a team of National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs, said the judge was not clothed with the jurisdiction to interpret the constitution.

Mr Iddrisu said the Minority would invoke the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the interpretation of Articles 118, 122 and 117 of the 1992 Constitution.

 Mr Amidu sued Ayariga and one Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car Company over the MP’s abuse of public office.

 The Ghanaian Times gathered that the charge of breach of procurement regulations relates to the purchase of ambulances for a health facility in the lawmaker’s constituency.

According to the writ sighted, “Mahama Ayariga, in November 2017, at Tema in the Greater Accra Region, did fraudulently evade customs duties and taxes by paying GH¢6,062.86 instead of the approved duties and taxes of GH¢36,597.15 to clear three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers.

He is also accused of “allegedly abusing his office as a public officer for his private benefit by “selling three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers with registration numbers GR 2220-18, GR 2221-18 and GR 2222-18 meant to be used for official duties as a Member of Parliament to Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car at a price of GH¢40,000 each”.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

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