The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has sued the publisher, Editor of the Africawatch Magazine, and the Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Mr Samuel OkudzetoAblakwa, for defamation.
The suit is in relation to an article written by Mr Steve Mallory, the Editor of the magazine, which accused the Foreign Minister of allegedly conspiring with others to steal public funds during a deal to purchase two properties for Ghana’s foreign mission in Oslo, Norway. Ms Botchwey is seeking compensatory damages of $20million for what she described as loss of reputation.
She is also seeking a declaration that the publication’s claim that “she has inflated the cost of the building to a whopping $16.5m” is defamatory and without basis.
Also, she wants an order from the court directed at the defendants to retract the publication and “render an unqualified apology in the same prominence as the defamatory publication.” The Foreign Minister added Mr Ablakwa as a defendant because according to her, the MP re-published the defamatory article on Facebook, a social media site.
The suit was filed at the Accra High Court today (July 9, 2019) by counsel for the Foreign Minister, Mr Gary Nimako Marfo.
The said article was published in the June 2019 edition of the Africawatch ,with the headline , ‘Ghana Exclusive: The Inside Story of the Oslo Scandal Conspiracy to Steal, AyorkorBotchway’s lies exposed, Nana Akufo-Addo’s defence falls flat.’
Steve Mallory alleged that Ms Botchway connived with other officials at the Ministry of Foreign “in a shameful conspiracy to steal” during an abortive attempt to but two properties (a Chancery and an Ambassador’s residence) to serve as Ghana’s embassy in Norway.
The article alleged that the prices of the two properties were inflated to a cost of $16.5million
No shred of evidence
In her statement of claim, Ms Botchway said the article was baseless and calculated to tarnish her hard image and reputation. “The defendants’ suggestion that she has inflated the cost of the property without any shred of correlative evidence to that effect amount to an imputation of crime and same is defamatory,” the statement of claim added.
The Minister further avers that she had never been convicted for any crime in Ghana or in any other country in her entire political career, and therefore, the article has soiled her reputation in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
According to the statement of claim, the publication has also damaged her reputation in the diplomatic community, public space and has also affected her credibility as a highly esteemed politician.
Service outside Ghana
Meanwhile, the Accra High Court has granted an ex-parte application by lawyers for Ms Botchway for Mr Mallory and the publisher of Africawatch, General Media Strategies Inc. to be served with the writ in the United States of America.
According to order of service outside of jurisdiction, the two defendants must file an appearance within 14 days from the date they are served.
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