Counsel for Sedina Attionu Tamakloe, former Chief Executive Officer of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), has challenged the authority of Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, to determine an application seeking the trial of his client in absentia.
According to the lawyer, the judge has already pronounced that the accused has absconded in one of her rulings, hence in his view, it is not proper for the same judge to consider an application filed by the prosecution urging the court to try his client in absentia.
Ms. Tamakloe is before the court together with Daniel Axim, an employee of MASLOC on charges including conspiracy to steal, stealing, unauthorised commitment resulting in a financial obligation for the government, improper payment, money laundering and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
She was granted leave to travel to the United States in July 2021 for medical checkup, but has since failed to return to the country to face trial.
It was against that background that the prosecution filed an application urging the court to conduct the trial in her absence.
Justice Asare-Botwe, in an earlier ruling, held that Ms. Tamakloe has absconded and subsequently ordered Alex Mould and Gavivina Tamakloe, who stood as sureties for her, to pay the GH¢5 million bail sum after they failed to produce the accused person to stand trial.
The judge yesterday indicated that the prosecution had filed its affidavit in support of the motion for trial in absentia while the defence has filed its affidavit in opposition, and asked the parties if there was anything else they wished to add.
Agbesi Dzakpasu, counsel for Ms. Attionu, averred that the judge had already held that the accused has absconded, which means the judge had already established her stand on the issue, so in his view she should not be the one to consider the application.
But Justice Asare-Botwe, who seemed unimpressed, urged the lawyer to go to the Supreme Court to challenge her jurisdiction if he thinks she is not the right person to hear the application.
“I think that you can’t make a finding that someone has absconded without searching the parameters set out by law to try the person by law. It is not always that a person absconds and is tried in absentia,” she said.
“If you think I should not be the one to hear the application, go to the Supreme Court to prohibit it. If you think the court is not properly composed, go up and prohibit me,” she added.
Justice Asare-Botwe adjourned the case to February 24 for ruling, and urged the parties to file addresses if they wish to do so.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak