Case Of Former Ghanaian Finance Minister Ends In Second Mistrial
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The case of a former Ghanaian finance minister charged with conspiring to buy missiles and other weapons for shipment to his homeland has ended in a mistrial for the second time.
And it is not clear whether Henry Mensah, 67, will face a third trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McCarthy said Friday that no decision had been made on whether to retry Mensah, who heads the Ghana Democratic Movement. The organization seeks to replace Flight Lt. Jerry J. Rawlings, an Air Force officer who seized power in a 1982 coup.
The mistrial was declared Friday after the federal jury deliberated for 17 hours over three days without reaching a verdict on the charge against Mensah, who served as finance minister from 1969 until 1972 under then-President Kofi Busia and now lives in London.
The government alleged that Mensah and his two co-defendants in his first trial wanted to equip a 100-member army in Ghana. Export of such weapons requires a license from the U.S. State Department, which the defendants did not have.
Mensah’s attorney, public defender Thomas Higgins, said that his client did not intend to buy or export arms, arguing that the Ghana Democratic Movement did not have enough money to buy a single rifle.
Mensah’s first mistrial was on May 27, when another jury could not reach a verdict after 19 hours of deliberation.
That jury did convict Mensah’s co-defendants, Kwasi John Baidoo, 41, a computer technician from Rockaway Township, and John Andrew Boateng, 44, a taxi driver in New York City.
Sarokin sentenced them to three years’ probation and 200 hours of community service and fined them $5,000 each, saying the two could not be considered criminals because they were trying ″to lift the yoke of oppression from their people and permit them to govern themselves.″
On Friday, while in Sarokin’s courtroom on another matter before the mistrial was declared, U.S. Attorney Thomas Greelish said the judge’s comments could be perceived as ″an indirect type of encouragement to groups such as the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) or the IRA (Irish Republican Army).″
McCarthy said the three defendants disclosed their intention to buy the military equipment during a meeting Dec. 8 with a U.S. Customs Service agent posing as an arms merchant.
They were arrested soon after the videotaped meeting.
Prosecutors charged that the defendants agreed to pay $200,000, plus the cost of shipping and bribes for Ghana customs officials, in return for portable anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-air missiles, camouflage outfits, automatic rifles and other weapons.