Pressure group, OccupyGhana has expressed happiness with the changes in charges filed by the state in the case involving The Republic versus En Huang and four others.
It would be recalled that OccupyGhana petitioned the Attorney-General (A-G) to call back the docket sheets in the case of the five Chinese nationals accused of engaging in illegal mining and set forth fresh investigations into the matter.
The group argued that the offences laid and filed against the suspects did not match the severity of the crime. The five Chinese had been charged with illegal employment of foreign nationals contrary to Section 24 of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) and Regulation 18(1) of the Immigration Regulation, 2001 (L.I. 1691).
Aside that, they five Chinese, OccupyGhana claimed in its petition, had been charged with disobedience of a directive given by or under the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) contrary to Section 52 (1) of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
OccupyGhana was of the view that En Huang also known as Aisha Huang and four of her compatriots working or employing others to work “illegally at small –scale mining site’’ must be charged under the Minerals and Mining Act and not the supposed immigration charges.
“We are deeply concerned that the immigration offences laid and filed against the Accused Persons do not match the severity of the act of employing or being employed “illegally at a small-scale mining site.” It is true that a person commits an offence if he/she “disobeys or disregards an obligation imposed or directive given by or under [the Immigration] Act.” But the punishment for this offence is a maximum fine of Twelve Thousand Ghana Cedis (GH¢12,000) and/or a maximum prison term of two (2) years, under section 52 of the Immigration Act. And, unless the law has been changed, regulation 18 of the Immigration Regulations provides that an individual who employs a foreigner in breach of section 24 of the Immigration Act attracts a penalty of only Five Hundred Ghana Cedis (GH¢500) payable to the Immigration Service. It is only upon failure to pay that measly penalty that the person may be taken to court, not for employing a foreigner illegally, but for failure to pay the measly 500 Cedi and upon conviction pay a fine of Four Thousand and Two Hundred Ghana (GH¢4,200) Cedis,” portions of the petition read.
“However, from our research, foreigners are absolutely prohibited from engaging in small-scale mining in Ghana. It is therefore an offence under section 99 of the Minerals and Mining Act for foreigners to engage in small scale-mining, and offenders attract a fine between GH¢360,000 and GH¢3.6M, and/or a maximum jail term of 20 years,” it added.
However, in a statement released on Tuesday, the group said the initial charges filed against the five had been changed.
Below is the full statement:
OccupyGhana is happy to learn that the charges filed in court in the case of Republic v. En Huang & 4 Others, where the accused persons are alleged to have been engaged in illegal mining in Ghana, have been amended and fresh charges brought, this time under the provisions of the Minerals & Mining Act.
It would be recalled that although the accused persons had been arrested for allegedly being engaged in illegal mining, the charges filed against them in court were relatively minor immigration offences that did not reflect the severity of the alleged acts.
OccupyGhana consequently obtained a certified copy of the Charge Sheet and immediately petitioned the Attorney-General over the charges, requesting the filing of the proper charges under the Minerals & Mining Act.
OccupyGhana is therefore gratified that the proper charges have now been filed. It gives the State the opportunity to prosecute for the proper offences and also affords the accused persons the opportunity to defend themselves against those charges.
The fight against galamsey is multifaceted, and it is only when we all put our shoulders to the wheel and occupy our democratic space that things will work.
In this direction, OccupyGhana would like to commend the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, and other media houses for the collective efforts they are making to bring the menace under control.
To reiterate our earlier call to the Government and all Ghanaians that the fight against illegal mining in Ghana is a fight to protect, not only the present, but the future of this country. It is therefore imperative that the law must be applied to all who fall foul of it, without fear or favour.
Yours in the service of God and Country,