Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei
By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The public’s outrage on the pervasive chain of corrupt acts that brought about the wrongful payment of fifty one million cedis judgment debt to Woyome is correctly on point. And so is the general perception that the case was fraudulently prosecuted.
But I disagree with the conclusion that the case failed because of lack of certain witnesses or the lackadaisical attitude of the Attorney general. The issue for this trial was not whether Woyome had any contract with the government. That issue was resolved by another court that improperly gave a default judgment against the government that implied that Woyome had a genuine case. And with that judgment in hand and no pending appeal, the man was paid his judgment award. So how then do you take him to court on fraud by false pretenses, or causing financial loss to the state? The man was awarded a judgment on which he collected. He did not misrepresent himself or falsify any documents or forge any paperwork in collecting his judgment. In fact, the government paid him the judgment debt with all alacrity! So where is the fraud?
Was the attorney general and the government side going to allege that the man defrauded them to pay him when he had a judgment in hand made out to him by a court of competent jurisdiction? There was no fraud on the side of Woyome at this point in time when he received the judgment award.
And as I have also stated elsewhere, the Supreme Court’s ruling that Woyome’s contract was void because it was not approved by parliament is the most asinine contract law ruling under the sun. In short, the ruling goes against the grain of international contract law and must be discarded for its grossness.
But all the above have become possible because of the high crime committed by key people in government against our country. The people who betrayed the country by failing to defend it against a fraudulent law suit, a judge who gave a default judgment without examining the validity of plaintiff’s claim, and high government officials who quickly authorized payment and took their share of the loot are those who should be standing trial for fraud and causing financial loss to the state.
Unfortunately, Woyome’s case is only one example of the numerous grand schemes concocted by this government to fleece the country. Even as we cry foul, new schemes continue to be daily hatched, and culpable persons strut arrogantly in the corridors of power, untouched, unquestioned, unharmed…….
Woyome had no contract with the government. Still, in collusion with high government officials, he brought a fraudulent breach of contract petition against the government which failed to defend itself. As a result, a default judgment was awarded to him by a judge who also failed to examine the value and validity of the plaintiff’s case before awarding the judgment. It is altogether strange that the government’s side did not appear in court to defend itself against a fraudulent lawsuit, and even stranger that the judge granted the default judgment without examining the veracity of the plaintiff’s claim, but the strangest thing of all is that the government never filed any motion to set aside the default judgment nor appealed against it in any higher court. Rather, government, as defendant in the case, agreed to the judgment and paid up with all alacrity. Once the government did that, the case was effectively closed, and there was no procedural path to retrieve the money except probably to go after all the officials involved in this grand scheme upon a separate criminal enquiry and surcharge them with the amount, and in addition, punish them with imprisonment. So far, government has shown no appetite to do this, and those officials are all walking about free.
Now enter a citizen vigilante, former Attorney General Martin Amidu, who filed a writ of certiorari at the Supreme Court alleging fraud on the scheme that led to the payment of the judgment debt to Woyome. As well intentioned and patriotic as this writ was, it was a case in bad procedure and improper suit. But instead of rejecting the writ upon sound legal arguments, the Supreme Court returned a unanimous verdict strangely impugning invalidity to a supposed contract based on the presumptive fact that it had no parliamentary approval. As I have said before, that ruling was very asinine, given that in international contract law, a government cannot reap the benefits of a defective contract (assuming there was one) and then turn around to say that its parliament did not approve of it. If the government signed a contract without performing its part of the conditions precedent, then the very performance of such a contract makes it valid under the equitable theory of quantum meruit or promissory estoppel, both theories designed to proscribe unjust profit. So by making a ruling that parliament did not approve the contract between the government and Woyome, the Supreme Court impliedly agreed that there was indeed a contract, and that the contract was merely defective. And in this context, Woyome would be deserving of his reward under the relevant equitable theories.
And by the way, I maintain also that the citizen vigilante had no locos in the case and his writ of certiorari should not have been entertained at the Supreme Court because the matter was res judicata insofar as it had been completely resolved by the court to the apparent satisfaction of all parties involved. The lower court’s judgment had already been upheld by the actual parties in litigation by a satisfaction of the judgment debt. And the matter was therefore effectively closed.
So in sum, the Supreme Court’s judgment was per se asinine, and it was upon this asinine judgment that the government brought a case of fraud against Woyome. But there was no way that the crime of fraud was going to pass legal muster, even if the government side had brought all those witnesses mentioned, or even if the Attorney General had marshaled all its best legal minds to pursue the case. This is because at this point in time, the only issue at stake was whether Woyome did anything fraudulent to secure the payment of this judgment debt to him. Woyome did not; but others did, and those others should have been the ones standing before the court, not Woyome.
I can understand people’s confusion because the Supreme Court confused people by returning a bad judgment; but that does not make the perception that the lower court’s judgment was set aside by the Supreme Court any truer. That original judgment could have been set aside by a timely and proper filing of the appropriate motions, an appeal or an application for a writ of mandamus directing the court below to do the right thing. But as I have said, no person of standing filed any motion or writ at any time. Yet the Supreme Court went ahead and made a concurrent, albeit confusing ruling that Woyome should pay back the judgment debt, not even because there was no contract, but rather that there was a contract but it was not approved by parliament. And here, the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision is a further testament of the cluelessness of its honorable judges.
In sum, the question of the validity or otherwise of the contract and its concomitant lawsuit cannot be re-litigated or even re-opened insofar as that questioned was foreclosed upon a final judgment and the satisfaction of that judgment. And consequently, the Supreme Court’s decision against Woyome remains a travesty on this account, and also, on account of its ridiculous basis that the contract was not approved by parliament. And finally, this last fraud case was an exercise in futility insofar as it had no ingredient in fraud.
The remaining issue regards the question as to whether Woyome will pay any money to the government on account of the outstanding Supreme Court judgment against him. If people are dreaming that Woyome will pay anything to government as per the Supreme Court ruling, their dreams are not rooted in any reality or even precedent. Somebody has naively stated:
“All the state has to do is to file an order (writ) of execution which simply means they intend to collect the debt by any means legal including placing liens on Woyome’s properties”
But what people fail to realize is that under the law of judgment liens, certain properties cannot be touched. For example, I don’t see how the NDC headquarters could be touched even if Woyome donated all the money to build it. We must understand that gifts made with illicit amounts are not recoupable under the law, otherwise the government will be entering churches to retrieve much of their donations….
And as regards Woyome’s personal or real properties, the laws everywhere make wide exemptions as to the types and extent that could be touched by a judgment debt. For example here in Texas, a sizable homestead and about 250 acres of land belonging to a couple cannot be touched by any judgment lien (except that of IRS and those properties purchased on creditor loans), and unless a couple have a homestead and a piece of land larger than this size, they will retain their house and land even if they have a judgment debt hanging on their heads. In fact a suit in Texas to collect any debt is almost useless; it is as if debtors escaped from other states to found this state in order to make laws abolishing the repayment of debts…..
And the object lesson here is that Ghana may have similar laws purported to protect indebted persons from being stripped of their human dignity, and if so, Woyome will have to go beyond the threshold of the exemptions to be compelled to pay any judgment debt. There is no evidence that he will fall into the catchment group if he does not have any adequate disposable income sitting in his account as we speak.
And if people are still deceiving themselves that Woyome is going to pay any money to the government, they must also begin asking why there has not so far been any governmental action to enforce the Supreme Court judgment all this while, particularly where Woyome has not filed any timely post-judgment motions or appeal on that judgment.
Elsewhere, the whole government should fall upon this gargantuan fraud perpetrated against the people, but these criminal elements that perpetrated this unprecedented fraud and aided and abetted in these huge financial losses to the state are walking about free, and the government is working hard to be re-elected while the people dance in circles over their treasure that has been so soundly looted. And the tragedy of mass corruption still permeates the fabric of our great nation in all corners while the nation’s patriots look on helplessly….
Samuel Adjei Sarfo, JD, MA, BA, etc. is an Attorney and Counselor at Law, a Teacher of Lore, Certified High School English Educator, Researcher and Scholar. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org