Ghana must adopt Deferred Prosecution Agreements – Godfred Odame

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Mr Godfred Yeboah Odame, Deputy Attorney-General has called for the introduction of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) to try some types of commercial criminal conduct as seen in the United Kingdom, serious fraud office (SFO) case against airbus SE.

He said such an approach to criminal justice system in the country would not only save unnecessary time on litigation but has the potential to rake up substantial revenue for the national kitty.

The Deputy Minister made these remarks at the opening of a five-day , 2nd annual Attorney General Alliance (AGA) African conference in Accra yesterday which brought together justice and law enforcement bodies such as the office of the Attorney General, Departments of Public Prosecution, Solicitors General, the Police Academic Bodies and other transnational actors in Africa.

The aim of the conference among others was to bring together industry and public sector officials to foster increased international collaboration on issues such as human trafficking cybercrimes and intellectual property rights.

Mr Odame said, one of the most important lessons to be learnt from the judgement of the crown court in the airbus scandal, with regards to law enforcement was the innovative reform made by U.K legislation in so far as the prosecution of some crimes was concerned.

“We observed a departure from the traditional approach to the resolution of alleged criminal conduct through the introduction of a new mechanism of a DPA by the UK crime and courts Act, 201”, he said.

He said the effect of such an agreement was that, proceedings were instituted by preferring a bill indictment while same may be deferred on terms including the payment of financial penalty, compensation, payment to charity and disgorgement of profit.

Mr Odame however, expressed caution in introducing such a law on wholesale basis adding that, certain classes of offences under circumstances in which the courts maintain complete control over same should be considered.

“This will not only contribute to the decongestion of our prisons, but will result in a speedier and more efficient adjudication of complex commercial crime and will also have further collateral benefits for the state like mobilising substantial revenue for government, saving jobs and lives of companies and avoiding other inordinate consequences for the society”, he said.

He said the public interest factors that may substantially outweigh traditional prosecution of a certain type of commercial offences as has so far been the practice in the U.K, should include a willingness to admit the facts and cooperate with criminal investigations on the part of the company and individuals in question.

Mr Odame said, effective remedial measures undertaken by the company in question, the potential disproportionate consequences for a conviction under current domestic laws of Ghana and another jurisdiction in which the crime may be involved should be some of the considerations.

“In order to avoid a situation of prosecutors abusing the process, thereby acting contrary to the public interest , the High Court has to exercise full control and supervision over the processes leading up to the adoption of such deferred prosecution agreements”, he said.

Reverting to the airbus scandal, he said, the statement of fact which was supported by over 30 million documents reviewed by relevant authorities was undisputed by the parties saying, “however, it is remarkable that in spite of the clear uncontroverted facts of the case, the key government officials in Ghana who negotiated the illicitly procured aircrafts have maintained utter silence, as it there was no such transaction or the principal actors do not exist.

“Many of the senior government officials involved in the illicit procurement are still around but continue to maintain a deafening silence or reprehensible indifference to the explicit findings of the crown court in England”, he said.

Mr Odame said, at least there was a Vice President who transformed into a president during the period in question adding that, whilst maintain his silence contrary to the tenets of accountability to the people , probity and integrity “he is rather remarkably, campaigning for votes from the same people he does not want to open to on the airbus scandal.”

Mr Odame said in the spirit of accountability to the people, probity, integrity and transparency, one would have expected those key government officials who negotiated or were involved in the unplugged transaction to self-report and voluntarily cooperate with the investigations directed by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

“having previously sworn an oath to defend the constitution and its principles, it is ironic that, the past government officials in question will not open up to the people on the role they played in a transaction, the subject matter of a criminal matter in a British court”, he said.

He said in England, it was the openness, transparency, self-reporting and cooperation shown by other key actors in the airbus scandal abroad which motivated the serious travel office of England to execute the deferred prosecution agreement with airbus SE.

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