The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has given an assurance that justice will be served to victims of the Menzgold saga.
He said the efficiency of a country’s justice system was tested particularly by the speed and efficiency with which cases seeking to hold high-profile members of society to account, as well as top financial crimes, were conducted.
Consequently, he said: “We need to punish corruption and other forms of economic crime through a fair, honest and efficient justice system”.
He said people paid their life savings to the suspects in the case, resulting in losses worth millions of dollars, and in some cases loss of lives, adding that the misery and distress caused to many homes nearly unleashed a social crisis as riots and demonstrations broke out on the streets of Accra and other parts of the country.
“In reality, people lost their homes, and some marriages even broke up as a result of the Menzgold saga. I am happy to state that after painstaking investigations, criminal prosecution has commenced against the perpetrators. At last, by the grace of God, justice will be served to victims of those dastardly acts,” Mr Dame said in a keynote address at the 40th Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime at the University of Cambridge in the UK yesterday.
It was his third appearance at the forum, which was christened: “Integrity”, and his second as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
It was attended by Members of the House of Commons, attorney-generals and heads of law enforcement organisations from various countries.
Mr Dame’s assurance to the public comes in the wake of the new 39 charges instituted against the Founder of Menzgold, Nana Appiah Mensah, aka Nam1, who remains the key character in the controversial financial investment scheme.
Although the firm was shut in 2018, prosecutions around the matter have dragged on, featuring a list of adjournments until the latest charges.
In the address which discussed a wide range of issues, the Attorney-General said the manifestation of economic crimes were increasingly getting complex because of various actions by professional enablers whose conduct bordered on unethical behaviour.
Those behaviours, he said, included breaches of procedures, violation of laws, laundering, creation of shell companies, opaque financial systems and concealment of illicit wealth.
“The intricacy and multidimensional nature of economic crime, undoubtedly, enjoin us to have a network of gatekeepers such as lawyers, bankers, real estate agents, insurance service providers and luxury service providers who are bound up by strong rules of ethics and accountability. A free, progressive and equitable society requires a world with men and women of integrity,” he said.
Mr Dame said the creation of a clean, transparent and accountable financial environment was dependent on structures and systems anchored in integrity.
The deployment of sophisticated schemes to circumvent procedures and facilitate the commission of crime and other kinds of improper conduct in the global financial space, he said, brought into sharp focus questions of ethics and integrity.
He said a robust legal system, underpinned by the rule of law, went hand in hand with economic prosperity as it bolstered the confidence of the people and deterred wrongdoing.
Mr Dame said that the detection of false or inconsistent claims by contractors was hampered by the illicit protection extended by public procurement officers otherwise mandated to detect and revise them.
The most chilling, and perhaps shocking case of insider dealing, he said, was witnessed when a former head of the Public Procurement Authority was implicated in what was notoriously dubbed “Contracts for Sale”.
“As the head of the procurement authority, he was alleged to have established a company in which he held majority shares and which also actively bid for government contracts. This company was alleged to usually win the contracts, which were then sold to other contractors at a higher price,” he said.
Mr Dame said the revelation of those acts promptly resulted in the termination of his employment by the President, and a withdrawal of his membership of various professional institutions and subsequent prosecution, which remained ongoing.
The record, he said, also showed a trial of other cases involving insider dealings in various courts in the country.
Ghana, Mr Dame said, had continued to have its fair share of threats to its financial and economic sector and that in his role as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, he had come to understand that any serious endeavour to fight economic crimes must be firmly rooted in the establishment of systems for its deterrence, undertaking of smooth investigations where same occurred, and a sound vehicle for prosecution and punishment in a fair and efficient manner.
Those systems, he said, had a close connection with the peculiarities of the Ghanaian society.
“In Ghana, public procurement plays a preeminent role in the development of the nation. At the same time, public sector corruption evokes strong emotions. In view of this, the nation has enacted a set of rules, from the Constitution of the country to specific laws in the financial sector, founded on the principles of integrity, to regulate procurement in the public sector and to curb abuse and insider trading,” he said.
Thus, he said, public servants were forbidden by Article 284 of the Constitution from placing themselves in situations where their personal interests interfered with or were likely to interfere with the discharge of their duties.
“One piece of legislation that is directly intended to prevent economically motivated crimes and the abuse of office is the Public Procurement Act of 2003 (Act 663).