The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has issued a defamation writ for $20 million against Africawatch Magazine and its editor, Steve Mallory, over a publication accusing her of inflating the cost of the Oslo Chancery being bought by the Government by $16 million.
Joined to the suit is Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu.
Ms Botchwey, who is also the MP for Anyaa-Sowutuom, issued a writ of summons after she obtained leave from the High Court presided over by Justice Samuel Asiedu to issue and serve notice of a writ of summons out of the jurisdiction of Africawatch Magazine over a defamatory publication.
The Minister, through her lawyers led by Garry Nimako Marfo, is, among other things, seeking “an order of injunction directed at the defendants’ agents, assigns, and privies from continuing to make any further defamatory publications about the plaintiff.”
She is also asking for “an order of court directed at the defendants to retract the said defamatory publication and render unqualified apology in the same prominence as the defamatory publication, as well as general and compensatory damages against the defendants in the sum of $20m for loss of reputation.
She is also seeking “a declaration that the defendants’ publication as particularised in the statement of claims that the plaintiff’s involvement in the Oslo property is “a shameful conspiracy to steal from the State” is defamatory of the plaintiff and same is without any basis.
A declaration that the Defendants’ publication as particularised in the statement of claim that she had inflated the cost of the building by a whopping USD16.5 million” is defamatory of the plaintiff and same is without basis.
A declaration that the defendants’ publication as particularised in the statement of claim that ‘unlike Ayorkor Botchwey and her ministry and government, Bonde has nothing to gain by lying’ is defamatory of the plaintiff and same is without basis.
Order for Service out of jurisdiction
On Monday, July 8, 2019, the plaintiff, who was represented by Garry Nimako, requested for leave of court to issue and serve notice to the defendants out of its jurisdiction.
The Commercial Division of the Accra High Court presided over by Justice Samuel Asiedu, while granting the request, said, “ it is hereby ordered that leave is granted to the applicant to serve notice of the writ of Summons and Statement of Claim on the defendants by courier at the following address: 353 West 48 Street, 4th floor, New York, (New York) 10036.
The court further ordered that the Respondents do file an appearance within 14 days from the date of service of the notice of writ if they so desire to contest the matter.
The Africawatch magazine made this publication on the cover of its June edition with the caption “Ghana exclusive: the inside story of the Oslo sacndal, conspiracy to steal, Ayokor Botchwey’s lies exposed, Nana Akufo-Addo’s defense falls flat.” This publication, according to the plaintiff, intends to tarnish her hard-won reputation, the reason she has decided to sue the Africawatch magazine and its editor for defamation.
In December 2018, it was reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had inflated the price of a building it supposedly bought in Oslo, Norway for use as Ghana’s embassy.
The property, according to Okudzeto Ablakwa, who is a ranking member for the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, was purchased at a cost of $12.1 million instead of $3.5million.
The foreign Minister later indicated that the said property was yet to be purchased and that discussions were still underway after the Minority accused her of inflating the price of the property.
However, in June 2019, the Africawatch published a story regarding the said issue on its cover page accusing the minister of conspiring to steal. The minister has, therefore, sued the Africanwatch Magazine and its the editor, who resides in the United States, for defamation.
Statement of claim
A part of the statement of claim stated: “The defendants’ suggestion that I have inflated the cost of the property without any shred of correlative evidence to that effect amounts to the imputation of crime and same is defamatory of my character”.
“The defamatory statement that I have conspired to steal from the state when a reading of the entire article does not show how I conspired to steal from the state amounts to imputation of crime and same is defamatory”.
The plaintiff, who was represented by Garry Nimako, requested for leave of court to issue and serve notice to the defendants out of the jurisdiction of the court, which was granted by the court.
The defendants are expected to file their defence within 14 days.