The Ranking Member on Parliament’s Finance Committee, Dr Ato Forson

Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, has, through his lawyers, accused Court of Appeal Judge Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe of being biased.

Justice Botwe is currently handling the trial of the legislator as an additional High Court Judge.

Lawyers for the Minority Leader, led by Dr Abdul Baasit Bamba, on Thursday, July 27, 2023, moved an application urging the judge to recuse herself.

Dr Bamba argued that it was legally wrong for the judge to hear the motion for recusal herself. He made these comments shortly after Justice Botwe had announced the outcome of a petition sent to the Chief Justice by another accused person standing trial in the case.

That accused person, Richard Jakpa had also accused the judge of bias days after he had clashed with the judge during a hearing.

The judge announced in court that a letter from the CJ indicates that she can still proceed with the case. Dr. Bamba then rose to address the court. He informed the court that they had filed a motion for recusal.

He explained that the judge had made certain comments which had unsettled the politician and led him to conclude that he was not going to get a fair trial. He pointed out that there is a principle of law that where the allegations of bias are so grave as the current one is, the judge against whom it is made should not even be the one to hear the motion of recusal.

“When Your Ladyship suggests that the witness who’s yet to be called and who has not expressed any unwillingness, will be arrested, that is unfair. The issues we are alluding to are so grave to the extent that for My Lady to say that if the person would not come he will be locked up, by Your Ladyship saying that these witnesses to be summoned could be locked up, it is problematic.”

“The order you made that unsettled my client is that his case would be deemed closed if he is not able to get any of his witnesses called. This means we are being denied our right to a fair hearing,” he stated.

It will be recalled that the court on June 22 issued an order for former Health Minister, Alex Segbefia and two others to appear and testify.

Read more: Ato Forson trial: Alex Segbefia, 2 others ordered to appear and testify

But the Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame disagreed with the position of the Minority Leader. He argued that the courts of Ghana have ruled in a number of key cases including that of Sallah v Attorney General that the court against which bias is raised can determine that matter.

“The application is completely unmeritorious. The argument that this court cannot hear this application is untenable. I submit that a court against whom an allegation of bias has been made has jurisdiction to determine that matter.”

“There is no actual bias demonstrated and all the orders you made in conduct of the case were within your jurisdiction to control proceedings in your court.”

“Where the court exercises its powers to control proceedings, a party affected cannot complain of bias,” he stated.

Justice Botwe indicated that the case will resume on October 12, 2023. She will rule on that day whether she even has the mandate to sit on the request for recusal as has been raised by Dr. Forson’s legal team.

The Attorney General has meanwhile concluded the cross examination of Dr. Forson’s second witness, Alex Mould.

The former GNPC Boss has in the last few weeks been testifying as an expert witness to explain to the court how letters of credits are generally established. A key aspect of the state’s case against Dr. Forson is that he wrote a letter to the Bank of Ghana requesting that letters of credit be established in favour of Big Sea Trading Company Limited.

This is the company that was contracted to supply the ambulances which have since been declared defective.

The state contends this correspondence occasioned a loss to the state in that it breached the terms of the contract which were against advance payment.

Mr. Dame wrapped up by asking Mr. Mould whether documents he had sighted so far shows that the Ministry of Health had made any such request for letters of credit to be established before the Minority Leader wrote his letter.

AG – “You indicated in paragraph 17 of your witness statement that before an LC is established on behalf of any ministry, a letter from the Minister of Finance must accompany the request. Which request is this?”

Mould – “The request from the ministry upon which the Bank of Ghana will act upon.”

AG- “Please look at exhibit A (letter written by first accused) do you see any request accompanying it?”

Mould-“ The only thing I see is reference made to the supply agreement.”

AG-“ So there was no request by the Ministry of Health which accompanied exhibit A. “

Mould -“I do not see any here but I cannot tell whether there was or not.”