Bank board aware of rice importation from India – Witness
An official of the National Investment Bank (NIB) told an Accra Fast Track High Court that the Board of Directors of the bank were informed of the importation of 15,000 metric tons of rice from India.
Mrs. Cecilia Don-Chebe Agbevey, Chief Manager of NIB, Airport Branch told the court on Thursday that the board was notified of the Letters of Credit, initiated by the bank to facilitate the importation of the 300,000 bags of rice.
Mrs. Agbevey was testifying in the case in which Akwasi Osei-Adjei, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, and Daniel Charles Gyimah, former Managing Director of NIB are before the court in connection with the importation of the rice.
They are facing eight counts of conspiracy, contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (Act 663), use of public office for profit, stealing and wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of 1,408,590 dollars.
They have pleaded not guilty to the various charges and the court presided over Mr. Justice Bright Mensah has admitted them to bail in the sum GH¢200,000 with two sureties each.
The sureties to consist of immovable property and their title deeds are to be deposited at the Court’s Registry.
As part of the bail conditions, the two would report to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) once a week.
Mrs. Agbevey former NIB Board Secretary and ninth Prosecution Witness was being cross-examined by Godfred Yeboah Odame, Counsel for Mr. Osei-Adjei.
She said NIB was established by an Act of Parliament and had been transacting business for the State as well as other companies to import food items and had its own warehouses.
“The NIB board was informed of the importation of food commodities based on the request from the government to reduce food prices and help local farmers to boost production,” she added.
However, witness could not state the quantities and the amount involved in the importation.
Mrs. Agbevey led by Mr. Anthony Gyambiby, Chief State Attorney said as the NIB board secretary, her main task was to arrange for meetings, agenda for the meeting and taking of minutes.
At this juncture Colonel Alex Johnson (Rtd), Counsel for Gyimah objected to the prosecution’s line of questioning, saying it was not relevant to the case but on the pertinent portions of the minutes of the NIB board meeting.
Mr. Gyambiby however rejected the claim.
The facts are that somewhere in February 2008, Mr. Joe Baidoo-Ansah, former Minister of Trade and Industry, initiated importation of the rice from India.
In a letter dated February 13, 2008 he requested government through the Ghana High Commission in India, to purchase 100,000 metric tons of (25 per cent to 35 per cent broken rice).
The rice was expected to arrive in Ghana by May 2008 to help curb the severe increase of price of staples in Ghana and the designated consignee was Ghana National Procurement Agency.
Mr. Baidoo-Ansah in another letter dated on April 10, 2008 addressed to the Minister of External Affairs of India, referred to an earlier meeting held between former President John Agyekum Kufuor and the Minister of Commerce of India.
In the said letter Mr. Baidoo-Ansah drew attention to “severe food situation looming in Ghana” and sought to procure from the Government of India 300,000 metric tons of low grade white 25 per cent broken rice for shipment to Ghana by June 2008.
However, in April 2008, Osei-Adjei took over the efforts of Mr. Baidoo-Ansah and nominated NIB as the sole consignee.
Gyimah represented the bank and negotiated the terms of the contract with State Trading Corporation of India through the Ghana High Commission in India.
Osei-Adjei instructed Ghana’s High Commissioner in India to sign the contract on behalf of Ghana Government.
The contract was executed and 15,000 metric tons of rice was to be shipped by Amira Foods Limited of India, a private shipping company and on February 18, 2009, the consignment arrived at the Tema Harbour.
Initially, exportation of the rice to Ghana was supposed to be a grant but later turned into commercial transaction noting that Gyimah approached Citibank to issue Letters of Credit to cover the value of the consignment.
On arrival of the rice, efforts by the NIB to obtain import tax exemption from Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to clear the rice were denied due to the commercial nature of the contract and non-involvement of the ministry in the transaction.
The rice on arrival was kept in Customs Excise and Preventive Service bonded warehouse.
However, after taking stock of the consignment, it was noticed that 2,997 bags were missing and the rest was in varying states of unwholesomeness.
The prosecution said management of NIB was making efforts to sell the remaining rice through tender.
It said investigations conducted by the BNI revealed that provisions of the Public Procurement Act were not followed and the missing 2,997 bags had been diverted for sale elsewhere for huge private profit.