Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture Minister-designate Catherine Afeku, has denied being a fraudster and a criminal.
“No, I have never been charged with fraud, neither have I ever had any criminal background,” she told parliament’s Appointments Committee on Monday, 6 February during her vetting.
She, however, explained that a business relationship between her and some American partners went “sour” at a point and the matter ended up in court but no criminal findings were made against her.
“No, I have never been charged with fraud, neither have I ever had a criminal background. But in 2007, I had the opportunity to do business with some American partners. It [was] a simple business relationship that went sour, it ended up in court as a civil suit, a judgment was made in their favour, and the claims were very clear: a refund of money, a car, and interest on the said amount. Myself (sic), my husband and the company we established, we did not agree with the judgment.
As law-abiding citizens, we complied and obeyed and had paid $117,000 out of the fine of $219,000 until 2013 when we came back to file fresh evidence in the form of a video recording of the son of our business partner who was actually our witness in the earlier judgment professing, confessing that the entire suit was based on a conspiracy between my business partners and a native of Axim, an elderly man,” Mrs Afeku explained.
“So, in that video, based on the evidence, we instructed our lawyer, Godfred Dame Yeboah, to take it back to court. So, we filed an appeal and a suit. In 2014, the suit was ruled in our favour and an injunction was placed on the earlier judgment. Throughout this court case, there was never any finding of fraud, there was never any finding of criminality. It was purely a civil matter of a business relationship gone bad.
As we sit here today, the judgment is that it has been ruled in my favour, every property seized of ours has been returned and we are awaiting our day in court to show the fresh evidence of the video recording and the court will decide.”
Ahead of her vetting, a group calling itself Truth and Accountable Governance (TAG) called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to drop the MP over the alleged fraud case.
The convener of the anti-Afeku group, Sirr Abdalah, in a statement said: “Mrs Afeku and her husband, Mr Seth Afeku, were found guilty of defrauding an American couple on 19-10-2013 by an Accra High Court presided over by Her [Ladyship] Barbara Ackah-Yensu. The trial judge directed the MP for Evalue-Gwira constituency and her husband to pay an amount of $217,464 plus 50 per cent interest to the plaintiff, Patricia and Bill Gick.”
In a follow-up interview on Accra News on Monday, 16 January, he said for this reason, Mr Akufo-Addo should, as a matter of urgency, drop her as part of his fight against corruption.
He said: “We want to make sure that our public servants are credible, without blemish, and are people who can protect our purse. This woman was declared a fraudster and so she should not be appointed as a minister. She has violated a court order and so should not be given any ministerial appointment.
“We all know the tourism sector needs huge investment, but how can investment come if a fraudster is heading that ministry? We will write to the Appointments Committee of parliament to ensure that she does not scale through.”
In a counter-statement, however, the NPP in the Evalue Gwira constituency said it found it “very painful, sorrowful, and disheartening for a group” to push for the withdrawal of Mrs Afeku’s nomination since she is “hardworking, affable, courageous and dependable”.
It added: “Our research revealed that the executives of the so-called group, Sirr Abdullah of Zuria FM (Kumasi), Elomba Nana Yeboah of Fanteakwa and Samed Akalilu of Kumasi, are all cast-in-iron NDC members outside the three constituencies of Nzema.
“We are aware it is partisan politics laced with hatred and jealousy aimed at scattering the fortunes of Hon. Catherine Afeku and the entire NPP in Nzema. Catherine has been the pillar of NPP in Evalue Jomoro Gwira since her return from America to serve her people. The support base of the NPP in Evalue Jomoro Gwira has increased steadily and people, especially the youth, have developed love for the party, a situation that threatens the existence of NDC in the constituency, especially when she is appointed as a minister.”
Reacting to the substance of the allegation levelled against Ms Afeku, the group said the facts are that in 2007, “judgement was given in favour of an American couple, but in 2013 fresh evidence was gathered and an appeal has been filed by our Hon. Catherine Afeku and her husband to set aside the earlier judgement of 2007 which was fraudulently acquired”.
“Now we ask: Where was this so-called group when Woyome was lying and stealing from the state? Where were they when Mahama was taking bribes at the presidency? Where were they when Selasi Ibrahim was ‘chopping’ oil money in the bus branding deal? Where were they when the NDC in Evalue Gwira accused their MCE of using state funds to build his private houses?” the group wondered.
“The youth and good people of the constituency are upset because they did not vote for a fraudster; they voted for competence, intelligence, eloquence, and a hardworking and courageous person, and that person is Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku. We call on the Appointments Committee, our teeming supporters and all NPP sympathisers to treat the publication with the contempt it deserves and clear our mother to contribute her quota to the development of Nzemaland and Ghana as a whole.”