Labianca scandal: Investigations are ongoing; we’ll jump the gun if Ms. Asomah-Hinneh is removed – Boakye-Danquah

Government spokesperson on Governance and Security, Mr Palgrave Boakye Danquah has said authorities will be jumping the gun if the Council of States (CoS) member Ms. Eunice Asomah-Hinneh, who has been captured by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) in the Labianca Scandal report is removed.

He explained that investigations are still ongoing and persons found culpable will be dealt with according to the law only after the probe is concluded.

“I think we are going ahead of the gun, investigations are ongoing, let us wait for the investigations to be completed,” he said on the Key Points on TV3 Saturday August 27 while responding to a question asked by host Alfred Ocansey regarding the refusal of the President to remove her from office.

He added “once the investigation is done and she is found culpable then an action can be taken. Her work as Council of State member is not going to affect the work of the OSP.”

Mr Boakye-Danquah further called for support for the OSP in doing its work.

The management of La Bianca Company Limited reacted the report and it was saddened by it.

The management also expressed concerns about the subsequent discussions of the report in the media when the company has not been formally written to by the OSP on the report.

“Although the Office of the Special Prosecutor has not written formally to the company on its findings as required by due process and fair ‘trial’ rules, we believe that the report findings are at variance with our recollection of events and submissions made to the office,” a statement issued on Tuesday August 23 said.

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“We deny that the company and its Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Asomah-Hinneh, procured customs advance ruling through ‘influence peddling or trading of influence’.

“We take the findings of the Office of the Special Prosecutor seriously and have consequently instructed our lawyers to take the necessary action on this matter.

“Over the years, the company has, in accordance with due process, applied for customs advance rulings under the Customs Act 2015 (Act 891). Indeed, over the years, the company has been tax compliant and has discharged all its obligations dutifully. Due to the nature of the operations of importers like us, the Ghana Revenue Authority, per Act 891, conducts periodic post clearance audits to determine possible undervaluation or overpayments of taxes,” the statement added.

It added “Consequently, the assumption of jurisdiction by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on such post clearance audit and our settlement of such taxes arising from such an audit is not synonymous with corruption and or corruption-related activities by the company. The several communications between the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the company confirm this.

“As importers of quality frozen foods, we will always comply with the laws of Ghana. We are committed to contributing our quota to national development by investing right in our cold store infrastructure, and value chain, creating jobs, and paying taxes.”

The OSP recovered over GHC1 million GHC1,074, 627.15) from Labianca Foods in unpaid import duties, a scandal involving a company belong to a Council of State member.

The OSP also called for wider investigations into Customs Division of the GRA and demanded for a copy of Integrity plans to prevent corruption.

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The OSP investigated alleged corruption and corruption related offences in the context of evasion and valuation of duties on frozen and processed food products imported into Ghana between 2017-2021.

The case, according to the OSP involved some high-ranking officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

In its report on the investigations, the OSP said “Labianca Company Limited commenced operations in 2014 and it is wholly owned and controlled by Ms. Asomah-Hinneh on all practical and legal considerations. The company, it appears, imports about two hundred (200) forty (40) footer shipping containers of frozen chicken parts, fish, pork and fries monthly primarily from Europe and the United States of America. It enjoys a substantial market share in the imported frozen foods industry.

“There was not much engagement with the Customs Division in the first three (3) years of the company’s operations beyond the settlement of standard customs duty and other tax obligations until 2017 when the company actively commenced applications to the Customs Division for the acceptance by the latter of the values of frozen foods it intended to import.

“By the time the company commenced the applications, Ms. Asomah-Hinneh had been elected a member of the Council of State representing the Western Region and appointed a member of the governing board of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority – positions she held at all material times. On this reckoning, Ms. Asomah-Hinneh is a politically exposed person as defined under section 79 of Act 959.”

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana