Justice Eric Baah has described as “devious”, a plot by Tiger Eye P.I. chief executive Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his team, to entrap the President of Ghana and the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast in a corruption scandal.
The Court of Appeal judge, who recently dismissed a GHS25-million defamation suit filed against Assin Central MP Kennedy Agyapong by the investigative journalist at the High Court, said in his lengthy judgment on Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “The President and the Prime Minister, who [the] plaintiff and his team targeted are the leaders of their nations. They embody the soul and spirit of the nations. They are obliged to lead by example, so, if they engage in corrupt acts, journalists like [the] plaintiff and, indeed, any citizen, is entitled to expose them”.
“However, a pre-emptily unjustified attack on their credibility, unprovoked by any credible suspicion of a specific act of corruption engaged in or about to be engaged in by them, such as drawing them into a trap, so as to be caught in a contrived corruption set up, as was alleged by the defendant, and backed by exhibits KOA4, was unwarranted and devious”, Justice Baah said.
He added: “It should be understood that as officers caught by plaintiff in his investigations have lost their jobs, an entrapped president may be compelled to resign out of shame or public pressure. That means, the plaintiff, through his investigative antics, can cause the removal of a president, and thereby upend the mandate given to him at the elections”, he noted.
“That is not investigative journalism. It is investigative terrorism. It is exercise of indirect political power under the cloak of journalism”, Justice Baah asserted.
He said: “The serious aspect is that political enemies of a president, who could not stand him at an election, may hire the plaintiff to entrap him to undermine his presidency”.
“In all honesty”, Justice Baah noted, “the plot by plaintiff and his group in exhibit KOA4 has nothing to do with journalism”.
Instead, he said: “It was a scheme for grabbing power by the back door and satisfying plaintiff’s insatiable taste for power, publicity, fame, awards, and rewards”.
“Since the president is an embodiment of the soul of the nation, any unwarranted plot out of nothing to entrap him to destroy his reputation and undermine his authority is reproachable”.
Read the relevant portion of Justice Baah’s judgment below:
This exhibit is a video covering plaintiff, one Amakye, a Sheik[h], an Arabian – and a Blackman.
They conversed about efforts to implicate the Ivorian Prime Minister.
They talked about sharing some percentages with a President and his family.
They also talked about gold.
The linkages between the topics discussed was not clear.
In his evidence in chief, [the] defendant contended that the meeting in exhibit KOA4, was to plot to entrap the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast and the President of Ghana.
The conversations in exhibits KOA3 and KOA4 appear very much to confirm that claim.
I consider the plaintiff and his team to be serious-minded people.
They will not incur huge expense[s] in dollars by booking flights, renting expensive hotels, paying fake Sheik[h]s in addition to living expenses, without a plan.
They would have a script for each investigation, detailing the role of members of the team, and their culprits or victims, depending on the angle from which one takes it.
As the fake Sheik[h] stated in exhibit KOA3, “they planned it very well.”
Corruption rating agencies have never been kind to Ghana in their ratings.
As to how plaintiff and his team select their subject persons, is a matter shrouded in secrecy.
But how do they choose their subject persons out of the large number of corrupt Ghanaians?
As things stand, persons selected may just be the unlucky ones, since some of those not selected may be worse than those selected.
Leaving that issue, which is obiter dicta, I turn back to the scripts of the plaintiff and his team.
The President and the Prime Minister who, [the] plaintiff and his team targeted are the leaders of their nations. They embody the soul and spirit of the nations. They are obliged to lead by example, so, if they engage in corrupt acts, journalists like [the] plaintiff and, indeed, any citizen, is entitled to expose them.
However, a pre-emptily unjustified attack on their credibility, unprovoked by any credible suspicion of a specific act of corruption engaged in or about to be engaged in by them, such as drawing them into a trap so as to be caught in a contrived corruption set up, as was alleged by the defendant, and backed by exhibits KOA4, was unwarranted and devious.
It should be understood that as officers caught by [the] plaintiff in his investigations have lost their jobs, an entrapped president may be compelled to resign out of shame or public pressure.
That means, the plaintiff, through his investigative antics, can cause the removal of a president, and thereby upend the mandate given to him at the elections.
That is not investigative journalism. It is investigative terrorism. It is exercise of indirect political power under the cloak of journalism.
The serious aspect is that political enemies of a president, who could not stand him at an election, may hire the plaintiff to entrap him to undermine his presidency.
Enemies of a state can also hire him just to destroy the political hierarchy. That brings up the issue of money.
In exhibit KOA3, the fake Sheik[h], who was hired to work for [the] plaintiff, talked about the numerous bags of dollars sent to Dubai by [the] plaintiff and his team.
[The] defendant alleged that [the] plaintiff has amassed wealth through corruption.
Even if that allegation is discarded, the question remains as to how [the] plaintiff and his team get those thousands if not millions of dollars.
[The] plaintiff is a lawyer and journalist, but these professions do not breed dollars from nowhere. If [the] plaintiff is being sponsored by internal or external entities, who are they? What are their motives and objectives? Does it include tarnishing the images of Presidents and Prime Ministers in our sub-region?
If the sponsors are external entities, do they approve of the modus operandi of the plaintiff? Can a journalist from CNN or BBC, out of nothing, lay traps just to implicate the American president or the British Prime Minister for the purpose of grabbing the headlines and instilling unwarranted fear in the populace?
Have they ever thought of sending [the] plaintiff to their countries to use same methods to catch people in racist acts, which is a social canker plaguing those societies? In all honesty, the plot by plaintiff and his group in exhibit KOA4 has nothing to do with journalism.
It was a scheme for grabbing power by the back door and satisfying plaintiff’s insatiable taste for power, publicity, fame, awards, and rewards.
Since the president is an embodiment of the soul of the nation, any unwarranted plot out of nothing to entrap him to destroy his reputation and undermine his authority is reproachable.
The attacks of [the] defendant on [the] plaintiff on that ground deserves commendation and not condemnation. I hold, in respect of exhibits KOA3 and KOA4, that any statements based on them were justified and passed the test of fair comment.
In the result, the court finds established the defence of justification and fair comment in relation to the statements of defendant based on exhibits KOA1, KOA2, KOA3 and KOA4.
Since those statements were justified, they could not have actually defamed the plaintiff.
In his written address, [the] counsel for [the] plaintiff asserted that there were some statements made by [the] defendant which the plaintiff averred in his claim and adduced evidence [to], but which the defendant did not respondent to in his statement of defence or testify on in his evidence.
The said statements were composed in a pen drive admitted as exhibit C.
The effect of those statements were summed up by counsel for plaintiff in paragraph 2.16 of his written address.
What runs through the gamut of accusations by the defendant are references to the plaintiff as a criminal, murderer, evil person, thief, a cheat, fraudster, extortionist, blackmailer, corrupt, land-grabber, tax evader, bribe taker/giver, cheat, interferer in the administration of justice, terrorises people, email hacker, among others.
The failure of [the] defendant to plead and provide evidence on those matters only meant that the words were admitted by him sub silentio, as having being uttered by him; that they were uttered in reference to plaintiff and that they were published.
As already mentioned above, it is the burden of the judge, as a trier of fact, to determine whether the words actually defamed the plaintiff, using the hypothetical reader test.
I have concluded aforehand; based on exhibits KAO1, KAO3 and KAO4, that the plaintiff engaged in the crime of bribe-taking and bribe-giving.
A person who commits a crime is a criminal, simpliciter. However, since every word uttered on a different occasion ought to be assessed for their defamatory effect, I will assess the alleged words to determine if they succeeded in actually defaming the plaintiff.
The facts and the evidence established the plaintiff as a self-confessed criminal, so defendant’s statement is factual and justified. Bribe-taking is a dishonest, fraudulent, cheating, extortionist, thieving, blackmailing, and a corrupt act; besides being illegal.
[The] plaintiff, who has been established by the evidence, as having taken and given bribes, could not have actually been defamed by those words.
On the allegation that [the] plaintiff murdered former Member of Parliament Joseph Boakye Danquah, is consorting with his wife, and was responsible for the killing of some Chinese, [the] defendant explained under cross-examination that he said so because [the] plaintiff had alleged that he killed his colleague, Ahmed Suale.
The hypothetical reader would have read about that notorious case involving the murder of the former Member of Parliament, Mr. Boakye Danquah, and would be aware of the trial of the suspects which excludes the plaintiff.
The allegation made by [the] defendant could not, therefore, succeed in actually defaming the plaintiff.
The allegation of land-grabbing could equally not actually succeed in defaming the plaintiff.
The defendant referred the court [to] the decision of the Supreme Court in [the] Republic v the High Court, Land Division(7) Accra, ex parte: The Registered Trustees of the East Dadekotopon Development Trust, Adolph Tetteh Adjei, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Holy Quaye (Civil Motion No: J5/46/2020, 22nd July 2020).
This judgment, being case law, is freely available on this Service’s, and most online law portals. In that case, the Supreme Court, by an order of certiorari, quashed a decision of the High Court, which had favoured the plaintiff herein and his grantor.
The basis of the Supreme Court’s decision was that, [the] plaintiff’s side did not effect service on a relevant party, and further, the High Court decision was based on a decision that had already been set aside by the Court of Appeal.
The statement of the defendant was substantially factual, and, therefore, justified.
It could not have succeeded in actually defaming the plaintiff.
Some of the long list of words made by defendant and tendered as exhibit C were capable of defamatory meanings, but none was proven to have actually defamed the plaintiff.
I state in conclusion, that whereas all the statements founded on exhibits KOA1,KOA2, KOA3 and KOA4 were truthful and factual, thereby sustaining [the] defendant’s defence of justification and fair comment, the statements in [the] plaintiff’s exhibit C; though capable of defamatory meanings, were not proven to have actually defamed the plaintiff.
I found the claims of [the] plaintiff merit-less. It is hereby dismissed.
ERIC BAAH, J.A
ODEI KROW Esq., for plaintiff,
OKYERE DARKO Esq., for defendant .