Pressure group, OccupyGhana, has petitioned the Attorney-General (A-G) over what it claims to be minor charges purported to have been levelled against five Chinese accused of engaging in illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.
The five alleged ‘galamseyers’- Gao Jin Cheng, 45; Lu Qi Jun, 39; Haibin Gao, 26; Zhang Zhipen, 23, and En Huang, 31, a woman, also known as Aisha Huang, reported to be a kingpin in the galamsey business, were on May 9, 2017 remanded in prison custody by the Criminal Division of the Accra High Court.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice Charles Ekow Baiden, remanded the five in custody for two weeks following a request by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) that it needed more time to investigate their activities.
No charges were read in the courtroom during their first appearance on May 9, 2017, because the lawyer for the GIS, Mr Peter Claver Nantuo, told the court that the service was in court on that day purposefully for a remand warrant and also to meet the 48-hour deadline that security services could hold a suspect.
OccupyGhana, however, claimed to have obtained copies of the charges supposedly levelled against the five Chinese.
According to the pressure group, the five Chinese had been charged with illegal employment of foreign nationals contrary to Section 24 of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) and Regulation 18(1) of the Immigration Regulation, 2001 (L.I. 1691).
Also, the five Chinese, OccupyGhana claimed, had been charged with disobedience of a directive given by or under the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) contrary to Section 52 (1) of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
In its petition dated May 16, 2017, Occupy Ghana was of the view that the purported charges levelled against the five Chinese ought not to be the charges.
“We are deeply concerned that the immigration offences laid against the accused persons do not match the severity of the act of employing or being employed illegally at a small mining site,’’ it said.
According to the pressure group, the punishment for the offence of disobeying a directive given under Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) was a maximum fine of GH¢12, 000 or a maximum prison term of two years.
Also, it stated that the punishment for illegal employment of foreign nationals was a fine of GH¢500 payable to the immigration service, while a conviction for failing to pay that fine was GH¢4,200.
The petition added that from reliable sources, under the Minerals and Mining Act, foreigners were “absolutely prohibited from engaging in small–scale mining in Ghana’’
An offence attracts a fine between GH¢360,000 and GH¢ 3 million or a maximum jail term of 20 years. Further, the equipment used or associated with the offence is seized,’’ it said.
Call for docket
The pressure group is of the view that the five Chinese working or employing others to work “illegally at small –scale mining site’’ must be charged under the Minerals and Mining Act and not the supposed immigration charges.
It is, therefore, calling on the A-G to call for the docket on the matter, “investigate the charges laid and filed, and if found necessary call for fresh, proper, weightier and more relevant charges to be filed or added’’.
Such a move, the group stated, would ensure that the law was applied against persons who fall foul in the fight against the galamsey menace without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, the Media Coalition against galamsey has also expressed concerns with the charges preferred against En Huang.
The coalition has accordingly called on the Minerals Commission to support OccupyGhana’s petition.
Source Graphic Online