Adjenim Boateng Adjei’s sunrise yellow kaftan shone like righteousness in a courtroom accustomed to dark suits.
His case is bright too, his lawyer, Kwame Acheampong Boateng, expressed confidence that the Special Prosecutor’s criminal charges against his client would fail.
Bored by a case yet to start, the former CEO of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) hung his head and crashed his gaze into his only companion there—his mobile phone.
At about 9:20 am, a clerk intoned, “Court rise!” Her Ladyship Mary Maame Ekue Nsenkyire walked in. A slender, bespectacled judge with two wigs, a white judicial wig that tamed a beautiful wig that flowed on either side within touching distance of her shoulders.
She immediately noticed the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng.
“How are you doing? I have not had the opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment,” she said.
Kissi Agyebeng rose to introduce himself, mentioning he was the Special Prosecutor, with an exalted emphasis on “special” much the same way, Special Ice mineral water is pronounced in those TV commercials.
“I have also not had the opportunity to do same,” Kissi Agyebeng referred to his inability to congratulate the judge on her rise to the High Court in 2019, from the Circuit Court in Kumasi, where she was nearly assaulted by marauding Delta Force members in April 2017.
Just two months after that incident, A.B Adjei and his brother-in-law, Francis Kwaku Arhin, formed Talent Discovery Limited. AB Adjei had just been reappointed into office as the CEO of the PPA, an office he headed when it was first created by the President Kufuor administration.
Talent Discovery Limited, in the words of the Special Prosecutor, was “their sure bet of winning public contracts in a disingenuous and unlawful design.”
The company was a vehicle of corruption and AB Adjei’s retirement plan when he exited the PPA, Kissi Agyebeng told the court. He was to join his brother-in-law at the company after retirement and “share the spoils.”
At 63 years, AB Adjei is now home. But that has not been according to the original plan because he was also in court. This was all because he perhaps did not factor in one question: “What would happen if an investigative journalist like Manasseh Azure Awuni shows up in my office to ask who owns Talent Discovery Ltd?”
Now, standing in an open-top wooden cage already half his height, AB Adjei was listening to a court clerk read to his hearing, eight counts of using public office for profit and nine counts of directly and indirectly influencing the procurement process to obtain an unfair advantage in the award of a procurement contract.
“…the Chief Executive Officer of Public Procurement Authority and a member of the Governing Board of Public Procurement Authority, corruptly abused the office for private profit and benefit by improperly and unlawfully influencing the outcome of the public procurement process by conducting the procurement process and actively participating in the decision-making process in respect of a public works contract awarded by the Ministry of Education…for the construction of a dormitory block at Collins Senior High School in the Asante Akyem North District in the Ashanti Region through restricted tendering unfairly in favour of Talent Discovery Limited, without disclosing your interest as the majority shareholder and a Director of Talent Discovery Limited, and thereby obtaining a corrupt pecuniary benefit,” the clerk read the particulars of the offence from the charge sheet.
“How do you plead?” the clerk continued.
“Not guilty,” a refrain he repeated after the near monotonous reading of the charges that lasted 22 minutes. After that, he sank into the cage that swallowed his height.
When his lawyer, Kwame Acheampong Boateng, stood up to address the court, he paid no attention to the special prosecutor’s confident accusations and story-telling monologue of how AB Adjei had made “fantastic” money in a “very short time” as the PPA CEO.
There was going to be time for that, he told The Fourth Estate reporter. Now, he was just interested in getting bail for his client.
The lawyer argued there is no way AB Adjei would run out of the jurisdiction because he was a “man of means”, a claim the Special Prosecutor privy to, the millions in the accused’s account.
He had several businesses running and had cooperated with investigations, the lawyer said as he asked for a self-reconnaissance bail.
The lawyer for AB Adjei’s brother-in-law also asked for bail. The Special Prosecutor did not challenge the bail for both accused persons, but he expressed some small misgivings about Francis Arhin. He said everything suggested that he resides in the UK. He revealed a small fear should the accused’s next flight signal his last time in Ghana.
“I will go to London and fetch him myself,” he said in a way that drew laughter from much of the court except the two accused.
The Special Prosecutor also revealed that the second accused person, Francis Arhin, had a newborn baby in the UK and may want to visit. But beyond these muffled fears, he said the accused had given the state no reason to believe he would abscond.
The judge looked at the two accused persons in the dock, zoomed in on Francis Kwaku Arhin and said but for the Special Prosecutor’s support for the bail application, she would have ordered the registry to take his passport.
She revealed some steel in her voice as she warned Mr Arhin against abusing the leniency.
“Let me tell you, I will not hesitate to rescind it,” she told him.
She, however, ordered the court to keep AB Adjei’s passport and asked him to apply for it anytime he wanted to travel.
The judge then granted each of the two accused persons a GH¢5million bail with two sureties each to be justified.
So, together, the two accused, whose relationship was confirmed by a funeral poster in the “Contracts for Sale” investigation, were granted a bail sum of GH¢10million and four sureties to be justified.
The judge ordered the special prosecutor to, within four weeks, serve the accused person with a full disclosure of every document the prosecution intended to rely on for prosecution and also ordered the defence to file all witness statements in four weeks.
She adjourned the hearing to June 28, 2022.