Former Minister for Sanitation and Water Resource, Cecilia Dapaah has filed an affidavit at the High Court challenging the second attempt of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), to secure an order of the court to confirm the seizure of monies discovered in her home by operatives of the OSP and the freezing of her bank accounts which are according to the OSP, suspected to be tainted property.
The OSP on 24 July 2023, seized five hundred and ninety thousand United States dollars ($590,000.00) and two million eight hundred and sixty-two thousand and seven Ghana cedis, from the residence of madam Cecilia Dapaah following a news publication in the Chronicle newspaper that some persons had been arraigned for allegedly stealing $1,000,000.00 dollars from the home of Ms Dapaah.
On 31 August 2023, an Accra High Court presided over by Justice Edward Twum, dismissed the OSP’s first attempt to confirm the seizure of madam Dapaah’s monies and the freezing of her bank accounts on grounds that the OSP suspected same to be tainted property.
In compliance with the order of the court directing the OSP to return the properties of madam Cecilia Dapaah to her within seven (7) days, the OSP on Tuesday 5 September 2023, announced that it has complied with the order of the court but has gone ahead to re-seize madam Cecilia Dapaah’s properties to aid their ongoing investigations on reasonable grounds that the cash sums of money remained suspected tainted property.
Grounds for 2nd seizure
The Office of the Special Prosecutor also claimed that the second seizure was effected to prevent loss, concealment or dissipation pending the completion of the ongoing investigation and that, based on section 32 of the OSP Act, (Act 959), the OSP contended that the instant action is a fit and proper case for the court to confirm the seizure of the cash discovered in madam Cecilia Dapaah’s house and the freezing of her accounts.
“The reasonable grounds that the cash sums seized from the residence of the respondents (madam Cecilia Dapaah and her husband Daniel Osei-Kufour), are suspected tainted property (as suspected to be derived, obtained, or realised from the commission of corruption or corruption related offences) are premised on the consideration that the cash sums are unexplained
“And not linked to any disclosed lawful source(s) of income of the respondents; and reinforced by the conduct of the respondents in their rendition of varying and sometimes conflicting accounts of the ownership and source(s) of the large amounts of money reportedly stolen from her residence, the cash amounts seized from her by the OSP, and the link between the large sums of money reportedly stolen from their residence and the cash amounts seized by authorized officers of the OSP” the affidavit in support of the OSP’s motion read.
Contention of Ms Dapaah
However, in an affidavit in opposition to the motion for confirmation of the freezing and seizure of Ms Dapaah’s property, deposed to by madam Cecilia Dapaah herself, the OSP’s action is described in the affidavit as “absurd, grounded on false allegations and brought in utmost bad faith and brazen disregard of Act 959 and the early ruling of the high court dated 31 August 2023”.
Ms Dapaah in her affidavit contended that the OSP’s assertion that her husband is covering up for her in respect of the ownership and source(s) of the money that they reported stolen from their home is not only false but also shows the OSP’s prejudice and lack of the impartiality required to execute his mandate in conducting investigations.
Other statements by the OSP in its affidavit claiming that Ms Dapaah said she registered a company called “Dermacare Cosmetics”, that she had an undisclosed and undeclared real estate business, that she used a concealed identity and aliases to sell property to third parties, according to Ms Dapaah, are false and that good faith and diligent investigations on the part of the OSP would have unearthed these facts to the Special Prosecutor.
“The Applicant (OSP) has not demonstrated that there is any basis to suspect the money found at our home are from a corrupt source or that the funds in my bank accounts are tainted property or the proceeds of corruption or corruption-related offences
“In confirming a freezing order, the Court is enjoined to balance the economic right of the affected persons against the State’s power to fight corruption and in this case granting the application would be unwarranted and will cause me undue hardship.
“Applicant has failed to consider that the funds in my accounts include my earnings from various past employments, pension, and treasury bill investments among others, which cannot be tainted property by any stretch of the imagination” madam Cecilia Dapaah stated in her affidavit.
“The Applicant has effectively held onto the money he seized from our residence and kept my bank accounts frozen since 24th July and 26th July respectively, which is in excess of the statutory sixty (60) days within which he is required to release seized property if he fails to prefer charges
“I am advised by Counsel and verily believe same to be true that having failed to satisfy the statutory conditions precedent for applying to confirm the seizure of and freezing orders of the sums found at my home and in my bank account respectively, this Honourable Court must dismiss this application with punitive costs for abuse of the Court’s due process” Ms Dapaah’s affidavit further read.
Abridgment of time
The OSP’s application was expected to be moved at the High Court on Wednesday, 18 October 2023. However, a lawyer for Ms Dapaah, Victoria Barth, has filed an application for an abridgment of time for the application to be heard by the court earlier.
Victoria Barth argues that since the action by the OSP is a repeat application, the OSP has foreknowledge of the basis of Ms Dapaah’s opposition and will therefore not be prejudiced by abridgement of time. The application for an abridgment of time is expected to be heard on Wednesday, 11 October 2023.