Trial of former NCA officials over $8m cyber security systems deal to begin January 16

Category: ICT, Lead 158 0
Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie

Two former officials of the National Communication Authority (NCA) who absented themselves from court have appeared before the Commercial Court (High Court Division) to answer a charge of wilfully causing financial loss to the State.

William Tetteh Tevie, a former Director General, NCA and Nana Owusu Nsaw a board member pleaded not guilty.

The two have been variously charged with the three others of conspiracy to steal, stealing, using public office for private gain, in contravention of the Public Procurement Act, Money laundering and intentionally misapplying public property.

On December 22, last year, three persons including Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, former NCA Board Chairman and two others were hauled over the alleged fraudulent purchase of Cyber Security Surveillance systems at a value of $8 million.

The system, which was to be used in the fight against terrorism, reportedly has some of its components missing, and it cannot be utilised.

The others are Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, former Deputy National Security Coordinator; and George Derrick Oppong, a Director of Infralocks Development Limited (IDL).

The five officials have been admitted to bail in the sum of $1 million each as well as three sureties each.

The Court, presided over by Mr Justice Eric Kyei- Baffour, also ordered the accused persons to deposit their passports to the Court’s registry, directing that if any of the accused persons would like to travel they should seek permission from the Court.

Agreeing on a date to commence the trial however became a tussle between the Court, Prosecution and the Defence Counsels.

The Trial Judge indicated that he wanted the trial to go on expeditiously by hearing the matter from Monday to Friday.

Mr Agbesi Kwadzo Dzakpasu counsel for Tevie said it would be medically impossible for his client to be in court on Monday, Wednesday and Friday because of his client’s health conditions.

Mr Dzakpasu further prayed the court to order prosecution to furnish them with all documents they intend to rely on.

Mr Osofo Buabeng who represented Oppong stated that it is not possible to come to court from Monday to Friday since they have other engagements.

Ms Gloria Akuffo, Attorney General and Minister of Justice who represented the state recounted that health issues may arise anytime and lawyers may have other priorities but they must be able to settle on good days so that the matter could be tried expeditiously.
 
Ms Akuffo said by the facts, they will be relying on contracts signed by the accused persons and provide the documents in that regard.

The Trial Judge stated that it was important that accused persons were given the chance to clear themselves instead of prolonging the case unnecessarily.

Mr Justice Kyei-Baffour, the judge, ordered prosecution to furnish defence team with all documents they intend to rely on and adjourned the matter.

Ms Gloria A. Akuffo, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, who presented the facts, said sometime in 2015, the accused persons without authorisation, took a decision to purchase a Cyber Surveillance system, which they claimed was to be used for anti-terrorism operations.

Ms Akuffo said Baffoe Bonnie, Tevie and Osman without going through the process as established by law, engaged Mr Peninat Yanyi, an Israeli lawyer and businessman, who selected NSO Group Technologies Limited an Israeli company to supply the system.

The Minister of Justice said Baffoe Bonnie, Tevie, Ensaw and Osman decided to purchase the system through a re-seller.

Baffoe- Bonnie, therefore, nominated Oppong, his business partner and a Director of IDL to be the re-seller of the system.

IDL, the Minister explained, was a company registered to provide logistics and infrastructure development.

She said investigations revealed that the supplier of the surveillance system was not the object of IDL.

She said in furtherance to the decision of Baffoe-Bonnie, Tevie, Ensaw and Osman to purchase the cyber surveillance system, Osman signed a letter on February 2016 in the name of the National Security Coordinator and addressed it to Tevie, in his capacity as the Director General of NCA, and copied Baffoe Bonnie.

By the letter, Ms Akuffo said the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) solicited financial support from NCA for the surveillance system at a cost of $8 million.
 
The Minister of Justice said on the same day of February 24, 2016, Tevie endorsed to a letter to the Director of Finance of NCA authorising payment of the system.

Prior to this request, Ms Akuffo said the accused persons without going through the required procurement process had already executed a contract for the supply of same cyber security system that the NSCS was soliciting funds for the two contracts namely the purchase of Pergasus systems and Cyber Security System.

According to the Minister, the NCA on December 2015 executed an agreement with IDL for the purchase of the Pergasus system at a cost of $5.4 million, which was later revised to six million dollars to include the commission of Mr Peniate, the Israeli lawyer for facilitating the business.

The Attorney General said investigations further revealed that, prior to the request made on February 24, 2016, by Osman to the NCA, Tevie had already written to ECOBANK to transfer $4 million to IDL from the accounts of NCA.

She said the transfer was done on March 11, 2016 to IDL’s account, which was controlled by Oppong.

“Out of the $4 million paid to IDL, Oppong transferred only $1 million to NSO Group Technologies Limited for the supply of the equipment leaving three million which was withdrawn over a period,” she said.

The Minister of Justice said the $3 million was shared among the five accused persons. The equipment, which was shipped by NSO Group of Technologies arrived on May 31, 2016.

According to Ms Akuffo, the equipment was however delivered at a private warehouse on the Spintex road owned by Alhaji Baba Kamara the then National Security Advisor.

She said the equipment was installed and tested in the private warehouse in the presence of Baffoe-Bonney and Henry Kanor, the Deputy Director General, NCA in charge of Technical Operations.

She said after the installation, in May last year, Oppong reported the irregularities to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) which led to the conduct of an investigations into the purchase.

Ms Akuffo told the court that investigations revealed that the Board of NCA was not aware of the purchase of the Pergasus system nor the institutional support to NSCS to purchase the equipment.

According to the Attorney General, it also came to light that NSCS Coordinator had also not asked Osman to write and sign the letter dated on 24 February 2016.

During the course of investigations Osman led investigators to a warehouse on the Spintex road where the equipment was retrieved.

The Minister said the investigators were informed that the equipment was brought to the warehouse on the instructions of Baba Kamara.

Inventory taken by the investigators showed that some components of the equipment were missing and there was no software to facilitate its operations hence same had been rendered unusable.

Source: GNA

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