The Financial and Economic Crimes Division of the Accra High Court has adjourned to January 25, the case in which the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) is seeking an order to freeze the assets of a former Minister of Sanitation, Cecilia Abena Dapaah.

The OSP and lawyers of the former minister have been battling in court since July last year when the anti-graft agency commenced investigations on Ms Dapaah for alleged corruption and corruption-related offences following allegations that she was keeping more than $1 million in her house.

That was after police prosecutors had arraigned two househelps working for Ms Dapaah and her husband, Daniel Osei Kuffour, at an Accra Circuit Court for allegedly stealing money and items worth millions of Ghana cedis from the couple’s residence at Abelemkpe in Accra.

In court yesterday was the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, who was making his second appearance in court regarding the case in a space of three days.

Also in the court presided over by Justice Nana Brew were Ms Dapaah and her husband.

It is not clear what necessitated the latest adjournment as the case was held in camera.

Apart from the motion for confirmation of the freezing of the assets, the criminal case by the OSP, accusing the former minister of failing to declare her assets as enjoined by law, is also expected to be heard on January 25.

Freezing order

On September 11, last year, the OSP filed an application for an order confirming the freezing of the asset of the former minister on the basis that it might be tainted property.

Per Sections 32 and 38 of the OSP Act, 2017 (Act 959), the OSP can seize and freeze any property or assets which it suspects to be tainted to facilitate its investigations. 

After the seven days, the law enjoins the OSP to seek permission from the High Court to continue to seize or freeze the said property.

This is the second time the OSP has filed a motion seeking permission from the court to continue to hold on to the assets of the former minister.  

The first attempt was dismissed by the court on August 31 this year after it held that the OSP failed to provide any legal justification as it could not convince the court that the seized items were connected to any crime.

In the ruling, the court, presided over by Justice Edward Twum, held that the OSP breached the Special Prosecutor Act 2017, Act 959, when he filed the application out of time (after seven days’ suspicion).

Aside from that, it was the considered view of the court that the OSP was in doubt of the true ownership of the alleged tainted property found in Ms Dapaah’s house and also failed to convince the court that the alleged tainted property were used in connection with a crime.

“Ownership and possession are not the same,” Justice Twum added, saying the application was premature as the OSP failed to establish the reasonableness of the suspicion.

Consequently, the court ordered the OSP to release the money to Ms Dapaah within seven days.

Legal journey

After releasing the money to Ms Dapaah on September 5, the OSP re-seized them and further froze the bank accounts and investment of the former minister.

The latest freezing motion was expected to be heard by the court on October 18 but the court decided to hear it on October 11, last year, after it granted an application for abridgment of time filed by the lawyers of Ms Dapaah.

In a ruling granting the application for abridgment, Justice Twum held that Ms Dapaah would suffer greater hardship if the application was not heard earlier.

However, the hearing was curtailed after the OSP petitioned the Chief Justice on October 12, last year, to remove Justice Twum from hearing the case and any other case filed by the OSP.

The anti-graft agency further filed a certiorari application at the Supreme Court to challenge the High Court’s decision to abridge the time for the hearing of the confirmation order for the freezing of the assets of the former minister.

On October 25, last year, the Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, refused the application by the OSP seeking the removal of Justice Twum.

With regard to the certiorari application at the Supreme Court, the OSP on November 29, last year, withdrew the application.

Justice Brew took over the case on December 12, last year, as a relieving judge as a result of Justice Twum proceeding on a two-month leave.

Justice Twum had to proceed on leave because he was one of the 19 judges who sat on cases during the last year legal vacation.

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