- Private legal practitioner Justice Srem-Sai has said that the issues unfolding in the Cecilia Dapaah case bring up critical legal and governance issues
- He told YEN.com.gh in an exclusive interview that the former minister could be charged under the Foreign Exchange Act because of the huge forex found at her residence
- Srem-Sai added that the embattled former minister faces criminal prosecution if the ongoing investigations by the Special Prosecutor make any adverse findings
Private legal practitioner Justice Srem-Sai has said that the former sanitation minister Cecilia Dapaah could be charged with illicit dealing in foreign currency.
The renowned lawyer explained that apart from possible criminal charges that could emanate from the ongoing investigations by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the former minister could be charged under the Foreign Exchange Act.
Justice Srem-Sai spoke to YEN.com.gh in an exclusive interview following revelations that close to $600,000 has been found at the minister's residence in addition to the $1 million and €300,000 already stolen from her home.
"In 2022, the BoG issued this notice: 'Bank of Ghana, in collaboration with National Security and Law Enforcement Agencies, will continue to clamp down on illegal foreign exchange operations. All offenders shall be dealt with in accordance with the law.' So, you see, the minister could be charged with unlicensed or illicit dealing in a foreign currency under the Foreign Exchange Act," he said.
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He added that tougher sanctions could hit the embattled former minister if the ongoing investigations by the Special Prosecutor make any adverse findings.
"For instance, if it is established that the monies are proceeds of corruption, then, the OSP could retrieve them for the State together with other criminal sanctions," he told YEN.com.gh.
Cecilia Dapaah faces serious legal questions
Justice Srem-Sai explained that the minister faces tough questions bordering on the laws that regulate the payment, possession, receipt or movement of foreign currency.
"For example, a series of Bank of Ghana Notices from 2012, through 2019 to as recently as 2022, prohibits the keeping or use of foreign currencies without a licence. These Notices are laws breach of which will incur criminal consequences.
"They are made under the Foreign Exchange Act, 2006 (Act 723). So, the first question that comes up is whether the minister has a licence to deal in such amount of monies. Generally, such licences are not even available to individuals. Even banks are hardly allowed to keep such amounts of foreign monies in their vaults," he explained.
But this is not the only headache for the embattled former sanitation minister, according to Srem-Sai.
"The former minister is faced with an even bigger question: how did she come by those monies? Some explanations have been given already. The OSP will use its investigative tools to confirm the validity of those explanations. The thing about money is that it leaves traces behind. So, the OSP can verify the sources of the monies and if they are from corruption or embezzlement, then, obviously, one would expect the law to take its course," he told YEN.com.gh.
Serious governance issues that Cecilia Dapaah's case brings up
Justice Srem-Sai also told YEN.com.gh that perhaps the biggest issue that the Cecilia Dapaah scandal brings out borders on governance.
He said from the facts emerging from the court, it is clear that the huge cash amounts were kept in the minister’s home at least from mid-2022.
"That was about the same time that the BoG [Bank of Ghana] was hard on the use of foreign currency. particularly the dollar. In fact, the last Notice by BoG to warn the public of the crime of unauthorised use of foreign currencies was issued in April 2022.
"That was the height of the Cedi-dollar depreciation. To think that someone as high as a minister in the government is at the same time holding such huge amounts of dollars in her bedroom can only be the height of impunity, if not utterly unpatriotic," Srem-Sai was blunt.
Government's unwillingness to hold officials accountable is unfortunate
Justice Srem-Sai said for him, the current administration's unwillingness to hold its officials accountable is particularly heartbreaking, citing the recent controversy stirred by President Nana Akufo-Addo's response to Dapaah's resignation letter.
"Already, the steps are not looking encouraging from the A-G’s side. Secondly, in his letter accepting the resignation of the minister, the President declared his strong belief that the minister will be vindicated. And we know the President’s records in holding his appointees accountable," he said.
To the private legal practitioner, many Ghanaians will be surprised if Cecilia Dapaah's case leads to any sanctions.
Special Prosecutor finds over GH¢48m in Cecilia Dapaah's accounts
Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh has reported in a related story that the Special Prosecutor found over GH¢48 million in former sanitation minister Cecilia Dapaah's accounts.
The former minister had accounts with Prudential Bank and Société Générale which contained the monies.
The Special Prosecutor earlier froze the bank accounts of Dapaah as part of the corruption probe into her wealth.
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