The Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, has reacted to the High Court’s decision on the assets of the late Forestry Commission CEO, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as ‘Sir John’.
According to him, if the ruling is left to stand, “the Republic will lose the fight against corruption in unimaginable ways”.
“The net effect of the ruling of the High Court is that a person may, in his lifetime, gleefully acquire property through corruption and then upon his demise happily pass on the corruptly acquired property to his beneficiaries for their benefit and by so doing, extinguish all scrutiny as to the propriety or otherwise of the acquisition of the property because his corrupt activities were not discovered during his lifetime”, he said in a statement yesterday.
Mr Agyebeng’s comments were in reaction to an earlier ruling by the High Court. The Court, presided by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, ruled that the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) cannot extend its powers to freeze the assets of the late Sir John.
Prior to this ruling, the Special Prosecutor had directed the freezing of the estate of Sir John. Acting on Section 38 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act (Act 95), the OSP directed the freezing of Sir John’s assets following the public uproar about a leaked document believed to be Sir John’s will.
In the said will, it emerged that Sir John had some parcels of land at the Achimota Forest Reserve and the Sakumono Ramsar site. The will also disclosed some huge amounts in Sir John’s local and foreign accounts. This triggered the OSP to begin investigations into the late politician’s assets, thereby necessitating a freeze on his assets.
The Act, which empowers the OSP to freeze the assets of persons under investigation, also requires the OSP to apply to the High Court for a confirmation of the freezing order.
However, hearing the application, the High Court took the view that the Special Prosecutor should have initiated the process under Section 54 of the Act, and, hence, dismissed the request by the Special Prosecutor to extend his power to freeze assets of Sir John.
SP to seek appeal
Meanwhile, Kissi Agyebeng has expressed his desire to contest the ruling of the High Court.
According to him, he will appeal the decision because the High Court failed to understand the request for the confirmation of the freezing order.
Mr Agyebeng explained that his outfit was not seeking to confiscate Sir John’s assets, but only wanted to confirm the earlier freeze on the assets to enable investigations.
“The judge, with respect, totally misapprehended the application for confirmation of the freezing order and misdirected herself by characterizing the application as that of a confiscation order, which regimes are governed by different considerations.
“The regime for an application for confirmation of a freezing order is designed to facilitate and investigation or prosecution to avoid the dissipation of the property in question. While a confiscation order is designed to permanently deprive the owner of the property,” Mr Agyebeng added.
The Special Prosecutor further asked for the freezing order to be confirmed to facilitate the investigation into the circumstances of the purported acquisition by the deceased of protected lands in the Achimota Forest enclave and the Sakumono Ramsar site, saying he “did not apply for confiscation of the estate of the deceased”.