Kumasi — THE HEAD of the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), Mr. Biadela Mortey Akpadzi has shrugged off criticisms about the mode of operations of his outfit, contending that his office has powers just like that of the police.
The nature of operations of EOCO has come under intense scrutiny, as there are concerns over treatment meted out to individuals who appear before it for interrogations. Persons invited before the office are alleged to be subjected to human rights abuses, though letters inviting such persons only tell them to come and assist with investigations.
The situation is said to have generated panic and trepidation amongst individuals whose cases have been referred to the public fraud investigative body.
An Accra-based Constitutional Lawyer, George Tetteh Wayo, first raised objection about the operations of the quasi-investigative body, after three of his clients indicted in the GYEEDA Report were said to have been detained deep into the night because they could not get people to stand surety for them.
The three persons, whose identity have been concealed for security reasons, were said to have suffered great ordeal when they failed to produce surety after being interrogated by officials of EOCO and had to stay deep into the night before being salvaged by a Good Samaritan.
Wayo's argument is that EOCO must come clean on its mandate and mode of operations in order to save individuals who appear before it the trauma and the embarrassment like what happened to his clients.
According to him, their operation is contrarily to the content of the letter of invitation which only asks individuals to come and assist with investigations but not to be treated as suspects.
He argues that in such case, the EOCO must have to take a second look at the content of the letter inviting people to appear before it so that they can prepare well and will not have to be ambushed.
"For me, I have no problem at all with an institution such as EOCO helping to fight corruption and other malpractices but such must not be done at the expense of people's human rights and freedom, I am only calling for clarity so that all these abuses can be avoided," he explained.
But the head of EOCO has quickly jumped to the defense of his office, claiming that there is no ambiguity in the nature of operations of the office.
Mr. Akpadzi told an Accra-based radio station, RADIO GOLD FM that his outfit does not need any further clarification on their operations as it is clearly spelt out in the Constitution.
According to him, the EOCO has powers similar to that of the police and therefore can effect arrest and detain individuals who appear before it.
The Act that sets up EOCO states: "The Executive Director, Deputy Executive Directors and officers authorized by the Executive Director shall exercise the powers and have the immunities conferred on a police officer in the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30), the Police Service Act, 1970 (Act 350) and any other law related to a police officer."