General News of Tuesday, 4 December 2018
The Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt by businessman, Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome, to have the ongoing legal proceedings in relation to his GH¢47.2 million debt owed the state moved to the High Court.
In a ruling yesterday, the apex court, presided over by a sole justice, Mr Justice Anthony A. Benin, held that it had the power to enforce its judgement and, therefore, surrendering its jurisdiction to the High Court would be unconstitutional.
The current legal battle is that the defunct UT Bank, through its receivers, is claiming ownership of two residential properties that the Attorney-General (A-G) says belong to Mr Woyome and, therefore, wants to sell to offset the debt.
Lead counsel for Mr Woyome, Mr Osafo Buabeng, had raised an objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear and determine the dispute, since it was under the High Court (Civil Procedure Rules, 2004, CI 47).
It was counsel’s argument that hearing the case in the Supreme Court would deny the parties the right to appeal, although CI 47 makes provision for the right of appeal in execution processes.
Rather, he said, the case should be moved to the High Court, where the right to appeal in relation to execution process was guaranteed.
In his response, a Deputy A-G, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, described Mr Buabeng’s objection as a red herring and urged the court to overrule it.
It was his contention that the current dispute in relation to the ownership of the properties emanated from a Supreme Court judgement in 2014 that ordered Mr Woyome to refund a GH¢51.2 million judgement debt that was paid to him by the state because it was unconstitutional.
In view of that, he argued that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to hear and determine any dispute that had arisen from its own judgement.
The apex court, in its ruling, upheld the Deputy A-G’s argument and overruled Mr Buabeng’s objection.
According to Mr Justice Benin, although the Supreme Court had adopted CI 47 in enforcing its 2014 judgement, it did not mean the court had to act like a High Court and allow the right of appeal.
The legal remedy available to any aggrieved party, the court held, was a review of its decision.
It was also the view of the court that under Article 129 Clause 4 of the 1992 Constitution, it had the power to assume any jurisdiction vested in any court established by law.
Based on its powers under Article 129 Clause 4, the court said, it could adopt CI 47 to conduct its business without having to surrender its jurisdiction.
“I overrule the objection as misplaced and misconceived,’’ Mr Justice Benin ruled.
Meanwhile, the court has fixed January 21, 2019 to give its decision on whether or not the defunct UT Bank, through its receivers, had any right to claim the two properties that the A-G wants to sell.
The court has, therefore, directed lawyers for all the parties to file their written addresses within two weeks.
In another twist, Anator Holdings Limited, a company which the A-G says belongs to Mr Woyome, has laid claim to a quarry in the Eastern Region which the A-G wants to sell to offset the debt.
Consequently, lawyers for the company have filed their case at the Supreme Court, arguing that the quarry belongs to the company and not Mr Woyome.
The company, therefore, wants the court to stop the A-G from including the quarry in the list of the businessman’s properties that she wants to sell.
The UT Bank, in April 2016, claimed ownership of the two properties at Trasacco in Accra when the state attempted to auction them to defray the GH¢51.2 million the businessman owed the state.
The effect of the claim is that the state cannot sell those properties until it is proved that the bank’s claim is false.
The Supreme Court, on July 29, 2014, ordered Mr Woyome to refund GH¢51.2 million to the state on the grounds that he got the money out of unconstitutional and invalid contracts between the state and Waterville Holdings Limited in 2006 for the construction of stadia for CAN 2008.
The court held that the contracts upon which Mr Woyome made and received the claim were in contravention of Article 181 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which requires such contracts to be laid before and approved by Parliament.
On March 1, 2016, Mr Woyome prayed the court to give him three years to pay back the money but the court declined to grant his wish.
He, however, refunded GH¢4 million in November 2016 and promised to pay the outstanding balance by quarterly installments of GH¢5 million, commencing April 1, 2017.
That did not materialize after the businessman initiated a litany of legal cases at the Supreme Court to support his case, which were all dismissed.
Apart from fighting his cases in the country, Mr Woyome also sought relief from the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) based in Paris, France, and the African Court of Justice based in Arusha, Tanzania.
In August 2017, the ICC threw out his case on the basis that he failed to properly invoke its jurisdiction.
His case at the African Court of Justice is yet to be determined.