Presidential jet case: court awards GHC10 million damages against Listowell, Class Media, ASEPA boss

Presidential jet case: court awards GHC10 million damages against Listowell, Class Media, ASEPA boss

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The court further ordered the defendants to apologize and retract the words complained about, as well as perpetually injuncting them from repeating their statements

An Accra high court, presided over by Justice Charles Edward Ekow Baiden, has awarded GHC10 million in damages against a group of four defendants over claims they made about alleged misuse of Ghana’s presidential jet.

The four defendants are Listowell Nana Kusi-Poku, the executive secretary of Good Governance Advocacy Ghana, the Class Media Group, Kwabena Bobie Ansah, a presenter at Accra FM 100.5, and Mensah Thompson, the executive director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA).

Three out of the four, in a suit filed following comments they made about the alleged use of Ghana’s presidential jet by the brother of President Akufo-Addo, entered appearance to challenge the suit.

The three were Class Media Group, Kwabena Bobie Ansah of Accra FM and Mensah Thompson, the ASEPA director.

However, Listowell Nana Kusi-Poku, the executive secretary of Good Governance Advocacy Ghana, failed to enter appearance to defend himself.

Delivering judgment against the three defendants present and a default judgment against Listowell Nana Kusi-Poku, after hearing the arguments of lawyers of all the parties, the court declared:

“It is hereby ordered that judgment in default of appearance is granted in favour of the plaintiff/applicant herein against the fourth defendant in the following terms:

“Ten million Ghana cedis (GHC10,000,000.00) damages for defamation contained in the publication by defendants on 29 May, 2021.”

The court further ordered the defendants to apologise and retract the words complained about, as well as perpetually injuncting the defendants – whether by themselves, their servants, agents or assigns – from repeating their statements or other similar words concerning the plaintiff.

The action

Edward Akufo-Addo, the younger brother of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, filed a court action for defamation on 3 June 2021 against the Class Media Group, the operator of Accra 100.5 FM, and the three individuals.

In his suit, Akufo-Addo asked for GHC10 million in damages following the defamation in a publication on 29 May 2021, in which the defendants accused him of having access to and using Ghana’s presidential jet because of his family ties to the president.

Reliefs sought

In the statement of claim filed by Kwaku Asirifi, counsel for the applicant, Edward Akufo-Addo prayed for four joint reliefs from the defendants.

First, the plaintiff requested GHC10 million in damages for the defamation contained in the publication by the defendants and particularly as set out in paragraph nine of his statement of claim.

Second, he demanded “an apology and retraction of the words complained of, particularly in paragraph 9 of the statement of claim, with the same prominence as the impugned publication”.

Third, the plaintiff sought a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, their servants, agents or assigns, from repeating the same or other, similar words of and concerning plaintiff.

Finally, he demanded costs inclusive of legal fees.

Basis of court action

Paragraph nine of the statement of claim sums up Edward Akufo-Addo’s contention.

It states as follows: “. . . the following [is] the verbatim reproduction of the impugned parts of the statements made by the second, third and fourth defendants using the first defendant’s radio station”.

Mensah: No, but we cannot continue to allow these people to take us to ransom. That presidential jet he has rejected, he says it cannot fly and all that, while he was travelling with the rented one, his sibling Bompty [sic] is the one who now uses the presidential jet.

Bobie: You don’t mean it.

Mensah: I am telling you, that’s a fact. Bompty uses the presidential jet, he uses it. The presidential jet is at the disposal of Bompty, your brother. It is the one he travels in wherever he goes. When you have wasted the resources of the country to rent the private jet then your brother would be cruising in this one.

Bobie: Master, are you sure?

Mensah: It is a fact; I am telling you. I am saying this on authority that the presidential jet, the Falcon, is at the disposal of Bompty.

Listowell: Yes, his younger brother.

Mensah: That’s the one his younger brother is cruising in around. We don’t know what he is doing. It is the country fuelling it [presidential jet].

Commander [referring to Bobie Ansah], all this information, it’s the embassies who give us this information because they track the flight radar of the Falcon. So when the presidential jet, having gone to hire a private jet, the Falcon would be in Abuja.

Who was using the Falcon in Abuja? Bompty! What are we confronted with in this town? You see, all these are there and Ghanaians we are not angry enough! This Falcon was bought by President Kufuor, who used it.

Bobie: Kufuor bought it at the tail end of his administration.

Mensah: When Mills came, he used it. Mahama came and also used it. You came just 2018, you have spent monies to change the interior of the Falcon, wasted the country’s funds and afterwards you say you don’t have need for it.

You are spending the country’s money to charter flights travelling around and have given the Falcon to your sibling as if it were a family property. Is the Falcon a property of the family? Is the Falcon your family property to put it at the disposal of your brother?

Applicant’s contention

Akufo-Addo described the exchanges above as completely untrue, stating that “the words complained of are utterly false and a product of the defendant’s malicious imagination and were calculated solely to disparage him and bring his name into opprobrium”.

“Plaintiff says that save that the president of Ghana is his brother, he holds no public office and has never had personal use of the presidential jet (the Falcon).

“Plaintiff says in point of fact that, even though members of his family play paramount roles in public service in Ghana, he has throughout his life endeavoured to live a private life devoid of public eyes and has succeeded until the impugned publication by the defendants.

“By reason of the impugned publication, Plaintiff’s reputation and character has been severely damaged and he has suffered considerable embarrassment, emotional torment and distress. The plaintiff has been brought into public odium and contempt,” the statement of claim said.

“Plaintiff says that the damage caused to his reputation is substantial as a result of his several years of education out of Ghana and extensive business dealings with partners outside Ghana.

“Plaintiff says that the impugned publication by Defendants has received huge circulation on social media platforms, causing Plaintiff to receive several calls from concerned friends, business partners and family members in the country and abroad.

“Plaintiff says that unless otherwise restrained by this Honourable Court, defendants will continue to publish similar and other defamatory statements about the plaintiff,” Edward Akufo-Addo’s statement read.

Citation ; Wilberforce Asare

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