The Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) have waded into Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng’s galamsey report with vaguely-worded statements without names, dates and other specifics.
While, the OSP claims he has been investigating the matter since last year, the Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has also claimed that the slow pace of criminal trials and grant of bail to illegal miners who return to sites is hampering the fight against ‘galamsey’.
The Minister of Justice, had claimed that more than 700 persons are standing trial for various offences.
Their statements are thought as a face-saving attempt for the Akufo-Addo government which is being bashed for allowing party elements, government appointees, officials at presidency, cronies among others to be engaging in illegal mining.
The OSP had welcomed numerous calls for action and investigations in the recent revelations in the galamsey report authored by a former Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.
The Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, in a statement issued yesterday, assured the public and civil society that the investigation is ongoing and far-reaching.
He said his outfit commenced investigations in 2022 on suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in illegal mining, and it also covers claims raised in the report by the former Chairman of the defunct IMCIM.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, who is a former Chairman of the now defunct Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining, in his report, accused some stalwart of the Akufo-Addo government of interfering in his galamsey [illegal small-scale mining] fight or being engaged in galamsey.
Many stakeholders including the Convener of the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, Dr. Kenneth Ashigbey, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) amongst others have called on the OSP to probe the allegations made in the report.
“The OSP acknowledges the recent calls for action and investigations into these matters by the public and civil society following the publication of a report on parts of these matters authored by a former Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation and head of the dissolved IMCIM.
“The OSP welcomes the calls for action and investigations and it assures the public and civil society that its investigation is ongoing and far-reaching and it also covers the matters raised in the report published by the head of the dissolved IMCIM”.
Kissi Agyebeng further assured to take necessary action against persons found culpable of corruption and corruption-related offences.
“The OSP will take necessary action against all persons deemed culpable of corruption and corruption-related offences in the mining sector,” he said.
The talk regarding illegal mining is on the front burner following a report by Prof Kwabena Frimpong Boateng on alleged high-level government complicity stifling the fight to end the menace.
Mr. Dame has in a statement to the media been updating the nation on what his office has been doing to end the menace.
He indicated that a total of one hundred and nineteen (119) criminal cases involving the prosecution of about 727 individuals for offences connected with illegal mining have been pending at the High Court and some Circuit Courts around the country since January 2022.
Four regions – Eastern, Ashanti, Western and Greater-Accra Regions are the main regions in which the prosecution of persons engaged in illegal mining is being conducted. The Upper East Region and the Northern Regions have a few as well.
On the nationalities of these accused persons, they range from Ghanaians, Chinese, Nigerian, Nigerien, Burkinabe and other West African nationals.
The main offence is undertaking a mining operation without a licence and buying and selling minerals without a licence under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, 2019 (Act 995).
The A-G also highlighted some challenges faced during the process.
He says the grant of bail by the court to accused persons on very lenient conditions enables accused persons to easily meet them and abscond afterwards.
A number of the accused persons standing trial around the country have absconded after they were granted bail by the courts.
The A-G also says that the Judiciary ought to cooperate in this fight against galamsey by being cautious in the grant of bail and speeding up its processes to ensure swift prosecution and punishment of offenders.
He further points out what he describes as a lack of cooperation on the part of witnesses.
The prosecution sometimes finds it difficult to secure witnesses who initially give statements at the investigation stage to come to Court to testify.
The unwillingness to testify is attributable to the fact that witnesses in galamsey cases live in the same community as the accused persons and are often threatened and intimidated by them.
Godfred Dame says investigators fail to seize the illegal mining equipment used to commit the crime, and even when they do, they fail to bring the items to court.
This, he says, makes the case of the prosecution quite difficult. Another challenge is the failure of arresting officers to arrest suspects on the mining site itself, thereby making it difficult to link the suspects to the offence.
Absence or lack of court interpreters who can speak and interpret court proceedings in the language accused persons may want to use, as witnessed in the trial of a Vietnamese national in Accra, slows down court proceedings.
The AG says his Office is committed to the prosecution and punishment of suspected offenders following the conclusion of sound investigations.