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Ofori-Atta defamation suit: Court fines Captain Smart GHC5,000 for failing to provide timely defense

An Accra High Court has ordered Blessed Godsbrain Smart (aka Captain Smart), the host and presenter of Maakye on Onua TV and Onua FM, to pay a cost of GHC 5,000 for failing to file a defense within the stipulated time in the defamation suit filed against him by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta.

On Thursday, July 27, 2023, lawyers representing Ofori-Atta appeared in court to pursue their motion for judgment in default of defense. However, they were informed that Captain Smart’s defense team had filed their statement of defense at 8:54 am on the same day.

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As a result, Ofori-Atta’s lawyers withdrew their motion for judgment in default of defense and requested a cost. The court awarded a cost of GHC 5,000.00 against Captain Smart and ruled that the GHC 10 million defamation suit should proceed as usual.

In his statement of defense, Captain Smart denies the accusation of defamation made against him by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta. He also asserts that Mr. Ofori-Atta is not entitled to the reliefs he is seeking from the court.

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On June 2, 2023, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta filed a GHC 10 million defamation lawsuit against Blessed Godsbrain Smart (aka Captain Smart), the host and presenter of Maakye with Captain Smart on Onua TV and Onua FM. The lawsuit was in response to defamatory claims made by Captain Smart concerning the recently approved International Monetary Fund $3 billion extended credit facility secured by Ghana for a three-year period.

In the writ submitted by Bright Okyere Adjekum, the lawyer representing Ken Ofori-Atta, it is stated that on May 22, 2023, during the course of the Maakye with Captain Smart program, the defendant, Blessed Godsbrain Smart, broadcasted and published the following defamatory words about the plaintiff on Onua TV and Onua FM, as well as on the internet: “Are you aware that Ken Ofori Atta has taken his 10% of the IMF money? Every loan we take, he takes 10%.”

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“The above statements are not only palpably false [and] absolutely fabricated, but were also deliberately calculated to disparage the plaintiff. Those words are malicious and were clearly further intended to convey and would be understood to convey meanings that diminish the plaintiff in the minds of right-thinking members of society,” the statement of case filed by Ofori-Atta’s lawyer read.

“The said words, set out in their natural and ordinary meaning, meant and were understood to mean, inter alia, that the plaintiff is corrupt, that the plaintiff has diverted public funds and that the plaintiff has abused his office.

“By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff has been greatly injured in his credit, character and reputation, and has been brought into public scandal, ridicule, distress and embarrassment and has thereby suffered damage,” the statement of case further read.

Ofori-Atta’s lawyer also said that by a letter dated 29 May 2023, they wrote to Blessed Godsbrain Smart (also known as Captain Smart) demanding an apology and retraction of the defamatory statements, but the defendant failed as well as refused to do so.

 Reliefs sought

The plaintiff is praying the court for five reliefs. First, Ken Ofori-Atta is praying for “a declaration that the words uttered by the defendant, ‘Are you aware that Ken Ofori Atta has taken his 10% of the IMF money? Every loan we take he [Ken Ofori-Atta] takes 10%’ are defamatory of the plaintiff” (Ofori-Atta).

Second, “recovery of the sum of ten million Ghana cedis (GHC10,000,000) as general damages, including aggravated and/or exemplary damages for defamation, for the libel uttered by defendant”.

Third, Ofori-Atta is demanding “an apology for and retraction of the words complained of and particularized” and, fourth, a “perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, whether by himself, his servants, agents or assigns, from repeating similar or other defamatory words against the plaintiff”. Ofori-Atta’s last prayer is for the court to award costs against Captain Smart.

IMF support

On 1 July 2022 the government made known to Ghanaians its decision to engage the IMF for support to mitigate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on Ghana’s economy.

From the date of the decision to go to the IMF, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has been at the forefront of Ghana’s negotiations with the Fund.

The Ofori-Atta-led negotiating team secured a staff-level agreement with the IMF on 12 December 2022 and obtained board-level approval on 17 May 2023.

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