US$4m NCA scandal: 3rd accused denies involvement
The Akuapem North Municipal Director of Medical Services has denied any involvement in the alleged $4 million National Communications Authority (NCA) scandal.
Dr Nana Owusu Ensaw, a former board member of the NCA and third accused person, testified that he did not receive any money relating to the alleged scandal, neither was he the conduit through which the other accused persons allegedly received the money.
“I have never conspired with anyone to steal.
I have never had any discussions or meetings with any of the accused persons or the witnesses on the issue of the purchase of a Pegasus equipment,” he told the Accra High Court last Tuesday.
Dr Ensaw was presenting his defence to the court, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.
Five persons — Dr Ensaw, William Matthew Tetteh Tevie, a former Director-General of the NCA; Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, a former Board Chairman of the NCA; Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, a former Deputy National Security Coordinator, and George Derek Oppong, a businessman — have been accused of stealing $3 million out of $4 million of state funds said to be for the purchase of a cyber security surveillance equipment, known as the Pegasus machine, for the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), which was sponsored by the NCA.
The accused persons have been charged with diverse counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state, stealing, conspiracy, money laundering, among other charges.
They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are currently on bail in the sum of $1 million each.
In the course of the trial, it came out that Baffoe-Bonnie had allegedly given a statement to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in which he admitted that he had instructed Dr Ensaw to take delivery of $500,000 in relation to the deal and distribute it among the accused persons.
Dr Ensaw yesterday testified that per the alleged statement, he (Ensaw) was expected to receive $200,000, Baffoe-Bonnie was to get $200,000, Tevie was to receive $150,000, while Alhaji Osman was supposed to get $70,000.
The accused further testified that the said alleged sharing of money could not have taken place because the figures did not even add up.
“Allegedly I was supposed to have taken $500,000 and shared $420,000. Now, if you subtract that one from $500,000, it comes up to $80,000 and allegedly my share was $200,000. It does not add up,” the witness told the court.
Dr Ensaw further refuted the accusation by the prosecution that he deposited $300,000 into his account during the time the said embezzlement took place and that the money was part of the booty that was shared out of the deal.
“In the first place, the prosecution states I received $200,000, yet I deposited $300,000. That does not also add up,” he said.
When his lawyer, Mr Johnson Normesinu, who was leading him in evidence, asked him how he came by $300,000, Dr Ensaw explained that he had a lot of business interests.
According to him, apart from being a medical doctor, he was also a lecturer and had many business interests in agriculture, construction, mining support services, among others.
He explained that when the Bank of Ghana came up with a policy in 2012 that the government would pay its dollar-denominated projects in cedis, due to the drastic decline in the value of the cedi against the dollar, it affected his businesses which were executing government projects, and as such whenever his company was paid for a project, he made sure he converted the cedis into dollars.
“As a company, we hedged the cedi to the dollar by always converting cedis into dollars when we are paid. Changing cedis into dollars helps in business by making money readily available,” he added.
It was, therefore, his defence that the $300,000 was his personal savings from the cedis he had converted into dollars when his company was paid for executing government projects.
During cross-examination, the lead prosecutor, Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, who is also the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), put to Dr Ensaw that the $4 million payment by the NCA for the purchase of the Pegasus system was not authorised by the Board of the NCA, neither was it captured in the budget of the NCA.
The DPP asked the accused person if, as the Chairman of the Finance Subcommittee of the NCA Board, the decision of the committee to supposedly approve a request by the NSCS for support to buy the Pegasus machine was approved by the main board.
The accused person replied that he did not remember the board disapproving the decision of the Finance Subcommittee.
“I put it to you that this is untrue because there are no board minutes at the NCA that reflects a decision of the NCA Board to conditionally approve the request from the NSCS,” the DPP said.
The DPP further asked Dr Ensaw if the money for the purchase of the Pegasus machine was captured in the NCA budget, to which the accused answered in the negative.
He, however, explained that the money was part of the institutional support that the NCA provided for other agencies.
“Normally, with institutional support, management pays and later comes for ratification from the board,” he said.
The cross-examination will continue today.
The said alleged scandal is said to have happened in 2016.
Per the facts of the case, Baffoe-Bonnie, Tevie and Osman were allegedly aided by a private citizen, Oppong, to engage in the act.
According to the state, the previous administration had contracted an Israeli company, NSO Group Technology Limited, to supply listening equipment at a cost of $6 million to enable the authorities to monitor conversations of persons suspected to be engaged in terror activities.
A local agent, Infraloks Development Limited, also charged $2 million to facilitate the transaction, bringing the total sum to $8 million.
The facts stated that the National Security did not have the money to fund the transaction, and for that reason the NCA, which has supervisory jurisdiction over the use of such equipment, was asked to fund the project.
It said $4 million was withdrawn from the accounts of the NCA and $1 million out of the withdrawn amount deposited into the account of the Israeli company.
According to the state, the remaining $3 million was lodged in the account of Oppong, who acted as a representative of the local agents, Infraloks Development Ltd.
Osman is alleged to have fronted for the entire deal.
The state said the accused persons later laundered the amount for their private benefit.