The immediate past Board Chairman of the National Communication Authority (NCA) under the erstwhile John Dramani Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie and four other persons have been arraigned before an Accra High Court (Commercial Division) charged with wilfully causing financial loss to the state.
Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie together with William Mathew Tetteh Tevie, former Director General of the NCA; Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, a former National Security Coordinator on the NCA Board as well as a private businessman, George Derek Opppong, Director of Infraloks Development Limited, have been accused of conspiring to, and successfully causing financial loss to the state.
Three of the accused persons namely, Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie, Alhaji Osam and Mr. Oppong were in court but Mr. Tevie and the other board members according to the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, were not present.
The Attorney General told the court, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, that she had been informed about the medical conditions of the two through a document and hoped they would appear before the court on January 9, 2018 – which is the next adjourned date.
The accused persons are also facing 16 counts and additional charges, such as conspiracy to steal, stealing, using public office for profit, money laundering, among others.
All those who were present in court pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of $1 million with three sureties.
According to the prosecution, the accused persons are being charged for allegedly creating, looting and sharing a staggering $4 million among themselves under the guise of procuring a Cyber Surveillance System which they claimed were to be used for anti-terrorism activities in the country.
Lawyers Osafo Buaben, Thaddeus Sory and Godwin Tamakloe, were in court to defend the accused persons and when they requested for bails for their clients, the AG did not raise any objection because they (accused persons) were already on enquiry bails from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).
The three who were in court were further asked to submit their passports to the court’s registrar and “if anyone is to travel outside of the jurisdiction in the course of the trial, he may need permission,” Justice Baffour ordered.
DAILY GUIDE can confirm that Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie, Alhaji Salifu Osman and George Derek Opppong were able to execute the bail terms and have submitted their passports to the court’s registrar – which were hitherto in possession of officials of the BNI.
The facts of the case as presented by the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, are that sometime in 2015, the affected board members, without any authorization, took a decision to purchase a cyber surveillance system which they claimed was to be used for anti-terrorism activities in the country.
According to the accused persons, without going through processes as established by law, together with an Israeli lawyer, Peninat Yany – who is also a business facilitator -selected NSO Group Technology Company Limited – an Israeli entity – to supply the cyber surveillance system.
She told the court that the accused persons decided to purchase the system through a re-seller and Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie nominated George Derek Oppong as his business partner and Director of IDL, to be the re-seller of the system.
According to the Attorney General, IDL was the company registered to provide the logistics and infrastructure development, but investigations revealed that the supplier of the surveillance system is not an object of IDL.
Ms. Gloria Akuffo told the court that in furtherance of the decision of board members to purchase the surveillance system, Alhaji Osman signed a letter dated February 21, 2016 in the name of the National Security Coordinator and directed to Tetteh Tevie in his capacity as the Director General of the NCA and copied to Baffoe-Bonnie.
According to her, by the letter, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) solicited finance of $8,000,000 for the surveillance system.
She said on the same day, Mr. Tetteh Tevie endorsed the letter to the Director of Finance of the NCA, authorizing payment for the system without going through the procurement process.
She said NCA then executed a contract with IDL for the purchase of Pegasus Cyber Security System at the cost of $8,000,000 and by a second contract, IDL executed an agreement with NSO Group for the same supply of the Pegasus system at an initial cost of US$5.4 million, which later shot up to US$6 million, to include commission for the Israeli lawyer who facilitated the deal.
The AG told the court that at this point, Mr. Tetteh had already written to Ecobank to transfer US$4 million to IDL from the accounts of NCA and the transfer was subsequently executed on March 11, 2016.
She said out of the US$4 million paid, only US$1 million was paid to NSO Group for the supply of equipment, leaving US$3 million, which was withdrawn over a period and shared among the accused persons.
She said the equipment was shipped into the country on May 31, 2016 and was delivered to a private warehouse on the Spintex road, owned by Alhaji Baba Kamara, the then National Security Advisor.
The AG said when the equipment was installed in the warehouse, it was later found out that some parts were missing and the system had no software to run it, rendering it unusable.