The Accra Human Rights Court on Friday ruled that the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) has no legal standing to investigate the Ghana Football Association (GFA), since the GFA is a private entity.
The court further declared that the seizure of documents and computers at the offices of the GFA by EOCO constituted an abuse of power and a violation of the rights of the GFA. Consequently, the court, presided over by Mr. Justice U. P. Dery,ordered EOCO to pay the GFA GH¢50, OOO in damages and costs of GH¢9, OOO.
It gave the ruling after studying the application for enforcement of the fundamental human rights filed by the GFA and the affidavit in opposition by EOCO.
The GFA filed the application following the seizure of documents and computers from its offices by EOCO through a court order in December last year.
In opposing the application, EOCO said it had the power to investigate criminal matters, including tax fraud" and money laundering, and could exercise emergency powers, for which reason it did not err in conducting the search on the GFA premises.
However, the court said since the GFA was not a quasi-state body under the laws of Ghana, the seizure of its documents and computers by EOCO constituted abuse of power and a violation of its rights.
It noted that the financial support that the government extended to the GFA did not make it a quasi-state body.
It said the state could not say it had financial interest in the GFA, for which it wanted to go, and investigate the GFA, adding, "It sounds illogical."
It further contended that the state could be said to have financial interest in an institution when the state funded the running of that institution and expected dividend from it.
It also declared that the court order obtained by EOCO and the subsequent seizure of the GFA's documents and computers were illegal and wrong.
Besides, the court held that EOCO had violated the GFA's right to privacy, property and work.
“Despite the court order, the respondent (EOCO) violated the applicant's (GFA's) privacy," Mr. Justice Dery stressed.
Moving the application in Court at the last hearing, counsel for the GFA, Mr. Thaddeus Sory, said the order obtained by EOCO to search the premises Of the GFA permitted it only to seize documents, which included the list of sponsors and information on the amounts disbursed by the association to assist in its investigations.
Yet, he added, EOCO seized not only documents but computers and mobile phones, items which were not permitted to be taken away by the court order.
Mr Sory said portions of the 1992 Constitution which dealt with the fundamental human rights of Ghanaians stated that administrative institutions needed to act fairly and reasonably in their dealings with the public, adding that EOCO had breached those provisions.
He argued that the EOCO had no right to investigate dealings between the GFA and its private sponsors, such as Voltic, Guinness Ghana Breweries, Goldfields and others, which it had sought to do.
But counsel for EOCO, Dr Phillip Anderson, denied that EOCO officials seized mobile phones from the GFA premises and challenged counsel for the applicants to provide evidence to that effect.
He said the word document as defined by the country's laws, included information stored electronically on computers, tapes and• other electronics, pointing out that EOCO had, therefore, not erred in seizing computers.
He said EOCO had the power to investigate criminal matters, including tax fraud and money laundering, 'and could exercise emergency powers and so it did not err in conducting a search of the GFA premises.
He argued that the state had sunk $22 million into the GFA for the 2010 World Cup and EOCO had the powers, under the 1992 Constitution and the law which established it, to act the way it did.
"The GFA is located in Ghana and is not insulated from our laws. We have the right to do what we did" Dr Anderson said, adding, "There was no abuse, violation and usurpation of their rights. We acted fairly, legally and within the order of the court."
The EOCO raided the offices of the GFA in December 2010 and seized some computers and files in its quest to investigate funds provided by the sponsors of GFA
Source: Daily Graphic-Ghana
Source: daiily Graphic
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