The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) disagrees with the High Court’s order to return Cecilia Dapaah’s seized money.
The High Court in Accra has dismissed the Office of Special Prosecutor’s application to freeze the bank accounts and assets of former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah.
In a ruling today (August 31, 2023), Justice Edward Twum’s court held that the Office of the Special Prosecutor violated the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 Act 959 by filing the application out of time.
Justice Twum questioned the conclusion made by the OSP regarding the ownership and tainting of the property. He stated that ownership and possession are not the same, and therefore the OSP’s reasoning was unclear. Additionally, the Justice noted that the application was premature as the OSP failed to provide sufficient evidence to support their suspicion.
The court has ordered the OSP to return the confiscated assets to the former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources within seven days from August 31.
In response to the court’s order, the OSP issued a press statement stating that it respects the directive but disagrees with it on the grounds that it is erroneous.
According to the OSP, “the freezing order was effected to aid the investigation, as required by law, not on the basis of the investigation, as indicated by the Court. Therefore, it cannot be said that the OSP did not carry out proper investigations to warrant the freezing order. The investigation has only commenced, and it is ongoing.
The OSP assures the public that it will take all necessary legal steps to ensure that the seized amounts and the balances in Ms. Dapaah’s bank accounts and investments are neither concealed, lost, or otherwise dissipated”
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The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) commenced investigation in the third week of July 2023 in respect of suspected corruption and corruption-related offences regarding large amounts of money and other valuable items involving Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, a former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources.
On 31 August 2023, the High Court, Accra refused to grant the application of the seizure and freezing orders on the grounds that the confirmation of seizure application was filed out of time; that the OSP did not provide any basis for the seizure and the freezing since it did not disclose the details of the transactions in the accounts. And further that the freezing order was based on public sentiments and without proper investigations.
While the OSP respects the Court’s decision, it disagrees with the decision of the Court. First, the OSP believes that the Court’s computation of the time limitation is, with respect, erroneous. The OSP searched three (3) private residences associated with Ms. Dapaah over the course of two (2) weeks. The searches and discovery were ongoing during that period.
There is little doubt that the OSP filed its application within the statutory window once the search and discovery window is considered.
Second, the seizure by the OSP and the Special Prosecutor’s freezing order were effectuated on the very firm basis of reasonable suspicion that the amounts and bank balances were tainted property as Ms. Dapath prevaricated as to the source(s) of the amounts she reported stolen from her residence, the amounts discovered by the OSP in her residence, and the volume of transactions in her bank accounts and investments.
Third, the freezing order was not based on public sentiments. Rather, it was based on court processes filed in a criminal matter before the Circuit Court, Accra involving Ms. Dapash as the complainant.
Further, the freezing order was effected to aid the investigation, as required by law, not on the basis of the investigation, as indicated by the Court. Therefore, it cannot be said that the OSP did not carry out proper investigations to warrant the freezing order. The investigation has only commenced, and it is ongoing.
The OSP assures the public that it will take all necessary legal steps to ensure that the seized amounts and the balances in Ms. Dapaah’s bank accounts and investments are neither concealed, lost, or otherwise dissipated.
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