The name of former Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has popped up in the trial of the former Board Chairman of the National Communications Authority (NCA) and four others.
It was Navy Captain (Rtd) Asase Gyimah, counsel for Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, a former National Security Coordinator on the NCA Board, who claimed the late former Vice President was aware of the decision to purchase the $8 million Pegasus counter-terrorism equipment.
But the fifth prosecution witness, Duncan Opare, who is the current Deputy National Security Coordinator, debunked the allegation, saying there are no records to support it.
This led to give-and-take between the lawyer and the witness in a marathon cross-examination, which lasted for more than four hours.
Lawyer: And I am putting it to you that the former Vice President, the late Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, was aware of the decision to purchase the equipment.
Witness: There are no records.
Lawyer: I am putting it to you that the records will not be found at your agency.
Witness: In the area of operations and purchase of equipment for the work of the National Security Council Secretariat, even though directed from the Presidency the Secretariat keeps records.
Lawyer: Where will these records be kept?
Witness: Can be kept at the office of the National Security Coordinator or at the registry depending on the sensitivity of the information.
Mr. Opare insisted that there is no record of the National Security Secretariat Council (NSCS) requesting the purchase of the Pegasus counter-terrorism equipment for use by the agency.
According to him, even in cases where the agency purchases highly sensitive equipment for covert operations through sole-sourcing, such purchases must be sanctioned by the National Security Coordinator.
He said although not everything is captured on the handing over note from one coordinator to another, it captures the ‘essential details.’
He said the payment for the Pegasus equipment, which has not been completed, would have been captured in the handing over note which would point out salient equipment, operations and security of the state.
Mr. Asaase-Gyimah outlined the functions of the equipment to include counter-terrorism, recordings, back camera snapshots, front camera back shot, retrieval of full files and identification of GPS locations.
He said the equipment can also exfiltrate data transmission, data back to command and control services.
But the witness insisted that he cannot confirm what the lawyer was saying since the equipment was neither installed at the National Security Secretariat nor used.Mr. Opare also denied the lawyer’s assertion that the NSCS met to take a decision to approve the purchase of the equipment.
“There is no record of the purchase of the equipment sanctioned by the National Security Council Secretariat on behalf of the state,” the witness rebuffed.
Another defence lawyer, Reindolf Twumasi Ankrah, who held brief for Osafo Buabeng, lawyer for businessman George Derick Oppong asked the witness whether he was aware a former National Security Coordinator, Yaw Donkor, had written to NCA to request funds to purchase a cyber security equipment.
The witness said Colonel Opoku, who is in charge of operations at the NSCS, showed him a letter when he returned from one of his court sections, saying “it’s a request for about $34 million to set up a cyber security infrastructure.”
Mr. Reindolf asked the witness if he was aware the current National Security Coordinator, Joshua Kyereme, upon assuming office, travelled to Israel to meet the manufacturers of the Pegasus equipment but the witness said he was not aware.
“Are you aware that NS Coordinator is not required to put in writing all covert operations,” the lawyer asked.
“In all covert operations records are kept because it involves documents, equipment and other accessories for the operations,” Mr. Opare replied.
The witness told the court that he was not invited by the police in the course of the investigation but gave his statement to the prosecution on January 24, 2019, at his office.
The court, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, discharged the witness and adjourned the matter to February 14, 2019, for the prosecution, led by Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa, to call their next witness.