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Ghana Opposition Party Accuses Government of Persecution

Ghana's main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) is accusing President John Atta-Mills' government of witch-hunting after the arrest of a former foreign minister.

Akwesi Osei-Agyei has recently been under investigation, for his role in rice importation from India. He was briefly arrested and released after posting a 333 thousand dollar bail.

Osei-Agyei is accused of willfully causing financial loss to the state, a charge he sharply denies.

The NPP claims political persecution since several ministers in the former administration are currently under investigation for graft.

The government insists the former ministers must account for their stewardship.

Ex-foreign minister Osei-Agyei told VOA that he didn't commit any crime.

"I am a bit disappointed because of the way and manner it took," Osei-Agyei said.

He said the seizure of his passport was illegal.

"They took my passport when I was being investigated, which I thought was out of the ordinary. So after waiting for a while and no response, I took the matter to court, and the case was postponed to Friday, July 24th at 10 o'clock," he said.

Osei-Agyei denied ever causing financial loss to the state.

"That is very strange because this is a situation whereby I facilitated the importation of rice. Apparently the goods arrived whilst I was out of the office, and the National Investment Bank took delivery and put them in the warehouse. So where come the loses that they are talking about?" Osei-Agyei asked.

He maintains the corruption charges against him are politically motivated.

"The way they called me yesterday (Wednesday) and then put me through interrogation and say you have to bail yourself, self cognizance bail… then of course you can see the political undertones," he said.

But the chairman of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDC) denied persecuting former ministers. Kwabena Agyei said there is evidence of financial malfeasance during the former administration that needs to be addressed.

"Nobody is witch-hunting anybody. Witch-hunting anybody at this age for what? A group of people have been in government, given the public money to provide infrastructure of various kinds in a Highly Poor Indebted Country, and they squandered that money carelessly," Agyei said.

He said the current government believes and abides by the rule of law.

"We are allowing the wheels of justice to roll to determine whether in fact there were those who pillaged us or just things magically disappeared from state coffers," he said.

Agyei challenged the opposition to come up with a better judicial system that will address graft allegations against former ministers.

"You need to be in this country to find out the procedure we are adopting in trying to find out where this money went. Who built this property, with what money?" Agyei asked.

He said there is evidence of wrongdoing in the former administration.

"We know all that they have done. If we start to serialize what they have done, ministry by ministry, department by department, you will weep for mother Ghana," he said.

Agyei dismissed as bogus claims that the previous administration worked hard to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Ghanaians.