The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has summoned some top officials of the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd over attempts to bribe Starr News’ Upper East regional correspondent after they were caught having secret meetings with a judge during some undercover investigations on public access to equal justice under the law.
One of the officials involved in the secret meetings, a Chinese expatriate, is reported to have fled back home for fear of prosecution in Ghana as pressure for hearing on the development mounts from a section of Ghanaians.
The officials, in a desperate move to have their ex parte communications with the judge, Justice Jacob B. Boon, hidden from the public, had offered the journalist (Edward Adeti) an unsolicited cash of Gh¢5,000 and a brand-new motorbike worth about Gh¢5,000 on behalf of the company.
But the journalist took the bribe items and some of the investigative recordings in his possession to the Upper East Regional BNI Command in Bolgatanga as evidence before making the findings public in a news report on Tuesday December 18, 2018.
Shaanxi, a Chinese-owned establishment, was battling a case with the Cassius Mining Company, a firm from Australia, at the Bolgatanga High Court One at the time of the undercover investigations. Cassius had dragged Shaanxi to that court in August, 2018, for alleged trespass into its licence area in the Talensi District and for purported theft of some gold-bearing ores and had sought an order directing the Chinese company to pay general damages for trespass.
Cassius also prayed the court to grant interlocutory injunction on Shaanxi’s operations outside the licence areas of its host partners— Yenyeya and Pubortaaba mining groups— and pleaded for the defendant (Shaanxi) to be restrained from unlawfully interfering in the area the plaintiff (Cassius) had been authorised to carry out prospecting.
Justice Boon, after the Shaanxi officials had met with him privately a couple of times in November 2018, passed a ruling that went in favour of Shaanxi on Monday November 26, 2018, as he did not grant the interlocutory injunction Cassius sought.
But subsequently, the region’s most senior judge suddenly recused himself from the case on Monday December 17, 2018, after he was officially notified of Starr News investigative findings on the secret meetings the Shaanxi officials had held with him at his official residence in Bolgatanga.
The bribe cash and the motorbike brought by the mining company to Starr News are still in the BNI custody pending the outcome of the ongoing probe into the matter. The investigative journalist, in the aftermath of the investigative piece, received both face-to-face and telephone threats which have been reported to security agencies.
Group Petitions President, Chief Justice against Judge
Meanwhile, a group calling itself National Patriots against Injustice and Corruption (NAPAIC) is pressing for Justice Jacob B. Boon to be interdicted “immediately” and summoned before a disciplinary committee for what it describes as “misconduct” on the part of the region’s Supervising High Court Judge.
The request is contained in a petition addressed to Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo.
“Knowing the modus operandi of the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd vis-à-vis the Starr News investigative report, we are of the opinion that a good number of aggrieved individuals, groups or communities would not resort to court for justice against the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd henceforth because of the actions of the High Court Judge and some other public and traditional officeholders. This, as a result, would not bring peace in the various communities that matter.
“In conclusion, we strongly believe that when disciplinary action is expeditiously taken as requested, the confidence which the public has lost in the justice system in the Upper East Region, particularly in the Bolgatanga High Court Room One where Justice Jacob B. Boon presides over cases, would be restored,” stated the group in a 3-page petition issued through its secretary, Francis Kolog.
Whilst calling for the Shaanxi officials involved in the bribery scandal to be “investigated” and “prosecuted” at a court of competent jurisdiction, the anti-graft organisation also entreated the BNI to “make public the findings of their investigations in the shortest time possible to, as it were, do away with the fear that the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd will by all means bribe them to kill the matter”.