Supreme Court grills Woyome's lawyer
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court at its sitting in Accra, cautioned embattled businessman, Alfred A. Woyome, to take the court seriously.
This was after the court had dismissed his latest application seeking a stay of execution to allow him to pay the GH¢51.2 million he fraudulently received as judgement debt, while he heads to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
The Daily Graphic brings to readers interesting excerpts of what transpired between the bench and Mr Ken Anku, counsel for the plaintiff, that led to the dismissal of the suit.
Mr Justice Jones Dotse: When did you become aware that your client would be going to the International Chamber of Commerce for arbitration?
Mr Anku: My Lord, it was the morning of the last time we were here. If I may refer, that was February 11.
Mr Justice Dotse: Do you recall that day, soon after court, it was reported in the newspapers that you granted interviews to the media.
Mr Anku: Respectfully, yes, I did.
Mr Justice Dotse: And it appeared at that stage your client made it clear that despite the striking out of the case of the man from Hohoe Zongo, Fanash something ...who your client was supporting. You said your fortunes were tied up with that case.
Mr Anku: Yes, my Lord.
Mr Justice Dotse: After court, you were reported to have told journalists that you would pursue the matter further at the International Chamber of Commerce. Is that correct?
Mr Anku: That is correct. My client intended to do that.
Mr Justice Dotse: It was after that, that you filed the application for stay of execution for payment of the judgment debt by instalment.
Mr Anku: My Lord, it is one thing your client telling you he intends to do something and the other is you receiving document to support what your client intends to do. At the time I granted the interview; my instruction was that he was going to the ICC. When I took hold of the actual document, it was the morning that we were here on February 24 but I had filed that motion and based upon my advice, he gave further instruction that we should withdraw.
Courtroom: Judges looking confused.
Mr Justice Anin Yeboah: There was no sitting.
Mr Anku: We were in court. We came to court. It was in ...
Mr Justice Dotse: So you must take the court serious. You don’t tell the court one thing and come back here seeking stay of execution. And then come back that you are withdrawing. We want to spend time reading valuable documents . Do you understand?
Mr Anku: My Lord, I understand.
Mr Justice Dotse: If you want to make a career out of this profession, you must desist from seeing your former career as a journalist.
Mr Anku: My Lord, point of correction, I was not...
Mr Justice Dotse: As a media man, not as a journalist, public relations. You must not just be rushing to the public to tell them what you want them to hear.
Mr Anku: Most obliged my Lord, I’m most grateful.
Mr Justice Julius Ansah: So what do you want now?
Mr Anku: My Lord, I said I wanted to move in terms of the motion paper and the affidavit in support and in so doing, I intend to rely on the affidavit in support without anything more to add.
Mrs Dorothy Afriyie Ansah (State Attorney): Respectfully, we are not opposed to the application to withdraw. My Lord, it should not be with liberty to come back, my Lords.
Mr Justice Dotse: What about the letter? They said they were sending you elsewhere.
Mrs Ansah: That is an intention. The letter we received is notice of intent to request for ...
Mrs Justice Adinyira: What do you want us to do with the letter?
Mr Anku: I leave that to the discretion of the court.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: You’re bringing a letter of intention to go to an international arbitration, why should it tie our hands here and why should it tie the hands of the A-G from going for execution? For me, this is just a red hearing. Should we allow you to withdraw, so you don’t proceed with your motion for stay?
Mr Anku: My Lord, I’m just a lawyer oooh (courtroom burst into laughter)
Mrs Justice Adinyira: When your client comes, you should be able to advice that, what you want to pursue is right, wrong, legal or illegal and if he insists and you knowing that what he wants is wrong, then you don’t take the case.
Mr Anku: Respectfully, My Lords. It is always a pleasure appearing at the Supreme Court because I take away good learning at all times. No matter the challenges, when I come, I take something new away.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Under the Legal Protection Act, as a lawyer, you are not bound to accept any brief from anywhere. All that you are bound to is that if you take a brief, then you must do your work constructively, diligently and attend to the court. You can’t say because I’m a lawyer and someone has brought a brief so I’m accepting it. Now we have decided to award cost because too frivolous cases are coming to the court.
Mr Justice Dotse: Mr Anku, having read your affidavit, you came here to be granted leave to withdraw your earlier application for stay of execution and pay by instalment because you are going to the ICC. Is that not your application?
Mr Anku: That is my application and the affidavit in support...
Mr Justice Dotse: There is no contract. You came to this court asking us to grant you leave to go to ICC. If we grant you leave on that basis, it presupposes that we are satisfied that you have a contract at the arbitration court at the ICC. Where is the contract? Have you exhibited it? We cannot grant. There is no contract to show that you are going to the ICC.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Or you have a case that you can take to the ICC but from our previous judgement from which another lawyer came for us to review, is in the contrary.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: You were in court when Mr Afrifa came to withdraw a substantive claim.
Mr Anku: I was in court, my Lord.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Did you see any contract?
Mr Anku: Respectfully my Lord
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Did you see any contract? You said you were counter claiming, did you see any contract? In the constitutional interpretation case, you were counter claiming.
Mr Anku: Respectfully, that day, I learnt something.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: So when will you cease learning? (Courtroom burst into laughter)
Mr Anku: You can’t cease learning in legal practice.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: That is true, but whatever it is, we did not see any contract and even if there was, there must be an arbitration clause for you to exhaust as a remedy.
Mr Anku: Respectfully my Lord, I have not had any contact with the external solicitors.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: But you have served these letters on the A-G.
Mr Anku: Yes, they have been served but we did not cause them to be served. We were also given a copy.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: So who prepared the document? Who submitted the letter of intent?
Mr Anku: My client did.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Why should he by-pass you to serve the letter?
Mr Anku: I’m privy to it because I attached it to my affidavit. But what went into the contract between him and the external lawyers, I have no hand, I have no knowledge. It is independent of what I’m pursuing here in Ghana.
Mr Justice Dotse: So what do you want to do? We cannot ... because your documentation is not up to date, you cannot say you have an arbitration contract at the ICC. If you want to withdraw simplicita, it is not premised on the fact that you are going to ICC. Perhaps, you have to withdraw and come properly.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: That is what
Mr Anku: I withdraw..
Mrs Justice Adinyira: In paragraph 2, you said the applicant said he had served the notice of intent. Who was served the notice of intent? He (Woyome) was served with a notice of intent.
Mr Anku: That is so my Lord. That is what the application said.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: To submit request for application by the International Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Anku: That is so.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: So who is this that is preparing this letter? In his own case somebody has served him a letter of intent. The letter is addressed to the council of the ICC and served on the Republic of Ghana. Didn’t he give this instruction?
Mr Anku: I believe he did.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: You believe he did? Who will instruct another person in a matter he has no interest in?
Mr Justice Dotse: He did write to the ICC, thus, from the letter attached, he is initiating the process. He wants to do this and use it as an order from the Supreme Court sending him to the ICC.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: You see how mischievous the whole thing is?
Mrs Justice Adinyira: My whole problem is that you gave an interview before filing the application.
No response from Mr Anku. Looking through his documents.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: When you have a case before the court, stop granting interviews to the media.
Mr Anku: My Lord, I regret having done that and I do apologise to my Lord Justice Dotse.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Don’t personalise it. Justice Dotse is not the court.
Mr Anku: My Lord, I’m sorry, the court.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: So you’re asking for leave to withdraw.
Mr Anku: Do I have it as of right to withdraw?, My Lord, if you advise me on that.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: We don’t offer legal advice from the bench.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: We are ready to hear the application but not…
Mr Anku: My Lord, which application? The one I filed? On February 15?
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: The one for stay of execution to pay the judgment debt by instalment.
Mr Anku: I have filed another application subsequent to an earlier one, saying that I want to withdraw.
Panel members in chorus: With leave…
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: What does leave mean?
Mr Anku: I would want to withdraw simplicita.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Counsel, when you file a process, and it is listed, it means, it is within the dominion of the court and you can only pray the court for leave. Leave is nothing more than permission to take a step, so that if the permission is not granted, the matter ends there. It is the court which should determine if the process should be withdrawn or attract full arguments on the merits. If you had that right to automatically just take the case out of our hands, then you wouldn’t have filed the affidavit for leave to withdraw procedurally.
Mr Anku: My Lord, the sins of the lawyer should not be visited on the client, so I will pray that I withdraw this application simplicita.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: You cannot withdraw. You pray for leave to withdraw.
Mr Justice Dotse: Seek the advice of senior counsels. They are here. Mr Tony Lithur and Thadeus Sory. Anytime you are in court and are in difficulty, seek advice from your seniors before we even come in.
Mr Anku: I will oblige that immediately.
Mr Anku: (After consulting with other lawyers beside him.): Respectfully my Lords, with good counsel from my seniors, I would want to move the motion on notice for an order staying the execution to enable the judgment-debtor applicant pay the judgment debt by instalment, filed on February 15, 2016 with it accompanying affidavits in support.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: That is the freezing orders and what?
Mr Anku: Yes, freezing orders from EOCO and subsequently, Bank of Ghana.
Mr Justice Dotse: Mr Anku, look at paragraph 81 of your affidavit in support. I don’t know if April has 31 days. Even though we are in a leap year, I don’t know if April has 31 days.
Courtroom bursts into laughter. Judges shake their heads.
Mr Anku: My Lord, that is correct. April has 30 days.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Can you repeat the payment terms?
Mr Anku: Respectfully, My Lords. I said I wanted to rely on you.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: I said read the payment terms.
Mr Justice Dotse: Read it. Just read it.
Mr Anku: Respectfully, the payment of GH¢8 million on or before April 30.
Mr Justice Dotse: What is there now?
Mr Anku: What is there now is April 31. I have corrected it.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: And thereafter?
Mr Anku: And thereafter, payment of the outstanding balance over 36 months.
Mr Justice Dotse: You haven’t finished.
Mr Anku: Payment in four instalments.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Mr Anku, you have to tell us, so we know what you want. So payment of the outstanding balance over 36 months and you think it is fair. I’m asking you a question. When was judgment given? 2014.
Mr Anku: My Lord, yes. The affidavit is that soon after the judgement EOCO gave directive that all his assets be frozen and the Bank of Ghana carried out the order and that has affected his consultancy and even opening new account has become a problem.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Have you challenged that?
Mr Anku: My Lord, we have done that and Bank of Ghana just about last month has written to all banks to defreeze the accounts.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: No wonder he is going to the ICC.
Mr Anku: I don’t know that one.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: Moreover, look at the fife. They have listed all these in one exhibit. Quarry at Mafi, vehicles and equipment and whatever, whatever.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: It is not enough…
Mr Anku: My client wrote a letter to the Attorney-General that we would want to sit down with them and renegotiate. On February 24, we …
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: Stop there. Are you aware that previous counsel for your client told this court that the money would be paid by the end of 2015?
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: The end of last year.
Mr Anku: I have not read it anywhere but my client told me.
Mr Justice Dotse: So you were thinking you can conjure magic to vary that.
Mr Anku: No my Lord. A client walks up to you ..
Mr Justice Baffoe: When he gave us that date, I think it was in October or so thereabout, then they (A-G) waited and filed the fife on January 26,2016.
Mr Anku: That is correct.
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: So beyond that you did not make any attempt to satisfy the court whether you had some financial challenges or whatever. They (A-G) have exhausted their patience.
Mr Anku: My Lord, it is not late. On the 24th that the court didn’t sit, I approached my colleague from the other side based on the instruction I had from my client that they should give us a day to come and meet with them to renegotiate the terms . I was supposed to have received a call from them yesterday, but it never happened and we are in court today.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: What happens with these things is that. I owe 50 million, I have 8 million now. I’m paying it. What you are asking us to do now is that for two years, since the judgement was given, nothing has been paid. And you’re not ready to pay now. You want us to say okay, April.
Mr Anku: Which is just around.
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: It will come, but the thing is three years, we don’t even mind the 8 million. What you are telling us is that it will be paid in four monthly instalments in 36 months. No date. So now, they can wait for you until the 36th month because you can decide to say, I’m going to pay all the four instalments, on the last four days. Do you think you are being fair to the state? You are a businessman.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: He is a lawyer.
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: You are representing your client as a businessman who want someone to owe him that much.
Mr Anku: My Lord, my client hasn’t been working due to the freezing of all his assets.
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: Then there is no guarantee that, even this, he will pay.
Mr Anku: I’m sure my Lord, we want to have a renegotiation concerning the terms with the A-G and April is just here and 8 million and subsequently…
Mr Justice Dotse: Do you want an adjournment to enable you discuss with the A-G and within a week or so and come back?
Mr Anku: My Lord, yes. We would pray that directive be given for us to engage the A-G. If they are not agreeable, we would come back.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: In fairness to them (A-G), they did not ask an order for interest payment. So there was nothing like an order for interest but interest after judgement is part of the rules and it is just about five per cent. So if you are going to pay this money in three years, then only God knows.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: A-G (State Attorney), that is what they are proposing.
Mrs Ansah: My Lords, the terms are unfavourable for the Attorney-General.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Is it favourable or not?
Mrs Ansah: It is not favourable, my Lords. My Lords, they have not shown any such intention. The client himself wrote to the A-G, proposing the same things that has been incorporated in the affidavit. That eight million will be paid by April 31 and the rest spread… I’m repeating the letter he wrote to us. He doesn’t believe in what he is telling this court. Thereafter, we were served with the request. The intention to submit a request for submission. My Lords, it goes to show that what he is proposing, he is not going to abide by it. Just as he did with the first one. The first one was promised in March and we had to wait until December 31. In between, we wrote several letters to the former lawyer to come for us to agree on payment terms but nothing happened my Lord. We are opposed to this My Lord.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: Anything else?
Mrs Ansah: We pray for cost of GH¢10,000.
Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah: She is asking for GH¢10,000. Say something.
Mrs Justice Adinyira: You are already down by 51 million.
Mr Anku: My Lord, we are already down by so much and adding this to the cost we already have to pay in the other case, it is a lot. My Lord, if we could pay GH¢5,000.
Mr Justice Ansah: Application is dismissed and GH¢5,000 cost awarded in favour of the respondent.