The second accused person in the case of the Republic versus Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, and four others, Matthew Tetteh Tevie, has denied claims that the purchase of the infamous Pegasus system intended to be used by the State for cyber-security surveillance was done in secrecy.
He told the Commercial High Court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor that the system was bought with the full knowledge and awareness of government, the Security Agencies and the Attorney General’s Department.
The former Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), opened his defence on Thursday 23rd of January 2020 and made the disclosure today the 30th of January 2020 when he answered questions from the lawyer for the fifth (5th) accused person, Rendolf Twumasi Ankrah, as part of his testimony.
Defence lawyer for the fifth accused person as part of his line of questioning asked the 2nd accused person;
You also testified that there was a meeting on cyber crime including some officers of government?
Mr. Tetteh Tevie gave a straight forward answer saying, Yes.
In respect of this meeting there were extensive communications between the Attorney General’s (AG’s) department and the NCA?
That is correct.
And In fact this meeting and discussions were all geared towards a robust cybersecurity system for Ghana?
And you also agree that it was discussed between the institutions you mentioned, the need to set up a cybersecurity or surveillance system in order to monitor the cyberspace of Ghana?
And in fact issues of a site for such a system was discussed. Do you recall that?
So it is correct to say that discussions leading out to the purchase of the Pegasus equipment and its citing were not matters shrouded in secrecy?
If you look at the various correspondence, it shows that there was awareness in the government, the security agencies and the Attorney General. So this decision was not taken or down in secrecy.
All the relevant actors of state had prior knowledge of the discussions and the decision to acquire and set up a cyber security system to monitor our cyberspace?
Yes. If you look at the email from the Council of Europe from a person called Calagi Polixina, the email specified all the institutions who needed to take part in this meeting.
DPP And the Cyber Security System
As part of the cross examination of the 2nd Accused person by lawyer for the fifth Accused person, some electronic mails (emails) exchanged between the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Yvonne Atakora Obuabisa and one Etta Mensah, a former secretary to the NCA Board of Directors, where tendered. The defence lawyer sort to use the said emails to impress upon the Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions who is currently leading the State in the Prosecution of the NCA case knew about attempts to establish a cyber security system for Ghana.
The DPP, however, objected to the tendering of the emails explaining that they are not in anyway relevant to the instant trial. She indicated that the emails trail bordered on correspondence between her and the NCA concerning an international cybersecurity conference organized by the Council of Europe, in Bucharest, Romania. Justice Eric Kyei Baffour’s Court went ahead to admit the emails into evidence for what it is worth.
The defence lawyer in his further cross-examination and relying on the enails suggested as follows;
Once again Etta Mensah, forwarded to you all such correspondence to the cybersecurity system and its set up?
The 2nd Accused person answered, Yes.
You agree that the email you just readout was in respect of a visit to a site for a cyber system?
Yes. The attachment was from the Council of Europe.
Kindly confirm to this court whether the Yvonne as stated in the email was the liaison of the Attorney General?
Kindly also confirm to the court who the said Yaa Obuobisa or the said Yvonne is?
She is the current DPP. She was the acting DPP at the time this correspondence was going on in 2016 when I was the Director-General of NCA.
The Prosecution and Adjournment
After the aforementioned events in Court, the cross-examination of the 2nd Accused person by the lawyer of the 5th Accused person came to an end.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora Obuabisa, was then invited by the Court to begin her cross-examination of the 2nd Accused person. After two preliminary questions, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour ended proceedings for the day and adjourned sitting to the 4th of February for the cross-examination to continue.
The state closed its case against the accused persons on the 18th of April 2019, following which, the accused persons chose to exercise their rights under section 173 of Criminal and Other Offences Procedure Act (Act 30) to file “Submissions of No Case.” In all, the state called six (6) prosecution witnesses in her bid to establish its case against the accused persons.
The prosecution witnesses were Director of Legal Administration at the National Communications Authority (NCA), Abena Awarkoa Asafo Adjei, Dr. Isaac Yaw Ani, Deputy Director-General in charge of Management and Operations at the National Communications Authority (NCA), Henry Kanor, Deputy Director-General in charge of Technical Operations at the National Communications Authority (NCA), Colonel Michael Kwadwo Poku, Director of Operations at the National Security, Deputy National Security Coordinator, Duncan Opare, and Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah, investigator of the case.
According to the facts of the case, as presented by the A-G, Baffoe-Bonnie, Tevie, Ensaw and Osman were allegedly aided by Oppong to engage in the criminal act. It said the previous administration had contracted an Israeli company, NSO Group Technology Limited, to supply a listening equipment at a cost of $6 million to enable the authorities to monitor conversations of persons suspected to be engaged in terror activities.
A local agent, Infraloks Development Limited, charged $2 million to facilitate the transaction, bringing the total sum to $8 million. The facts explained that the National Security did not have the money to fund the transaction and for that reason the NCA, which had supervisory jurisdiction over the use of such equipment, was asked to fund the project.
It said $4 million was withdrawn from the NCA’s account, while $1 million out of the withdrawn amount was deposited into the account of the Israeli company. The A-G explained that the remaining $3 million was lodged in the account of Oppong, who acted as a representative of the local agents, Infraloks Development Ltd.