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Galamsey kingpin, En Huang, also known as Aisha Huang, was Monday jailed four-and-a-half years for engaging in illegal mining by the Accra High Court.
The jail term was in respect of offences she committed between 2015 and 2017 before she was first deported in 2018 following the Attorney-General’s decision to discontinue the case.
After convicting the Chinese national, the presiding judge, Justice Lydia Osei Marfo, said she wished she could have given her a longer sentence.
Although she was not explicit, the judge’s hand appeared to have been forced by the old mining law, the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), which imposes a maximum of five years’ jail term for engaging in illegal mining.
Act 703 was replaced in 2019 with the Minerals and Mining Act, 2019 (Act 995), which came into force well after Huang’s trial had begun under the old law.
Under Act 995, convicted illegal miners face a minimum of 15 years and a maximum 25 years in prison.
In addition to the custodial sentence, Huang was also fined GH¢48,000.
She is to be deported after serving her jail term and paying the fine imposed by the Criminal Division of the Accra High Court after finding her guilty of undertaking a mining operation without a licence, facilitating the participation of persons engaged in a mining operation and illegal employment of foreigners.
“Aisha Huang abused our (Ghana’s) kind hospitality extended to her during her initial trial stage when a nolle prosequi was filed and she was deported.
“She did not rest; she came back with new personality, different name and date of birth and carried on her illegal activities with impunity,” were the words of the judge prior to slapping Huang with the custodial sentence and the fine.
This follows a 14-month long trial led by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa.
Describing the fight against illegal mining as a public concern, Justice Marfo said she did not even compensate the farmers adequately, adding: “The mode of her operation was just to get them to agree to give out their lands before agreeing on how much they will take per acre”.
Facing the judge in her usual nose mask and white scarf, Aisha Huang was calmly seated in the dock while the judge read out the-close-to three-hour judgement.
En Huang was accused of being in the thick of affairs of galamsey, especially in the Ashanti Region.
She was deported from the country in 2018 after the A-G decided to discontinue her trial in which she was accused of engaging in small-scale mining without a licence.
However, she sneaked back into the country to engage in the same activities for which she was deported.
In October 2022, the A-G decided to prosecute her for the crimes she committed before her deportation.
It was the case of the prosecution that Aisha had an illegal mining concession at Bepotenten in the Amansie West District in the Ashanti Region and also operated a mining support services company.
She had pleaded not guilty to four counts of undertaking a mining operation without a licence, facilitating the participation of persons engaged in a mining operation, illegal employment of foreigners and entering Ghana while prohibited from re-entry.
But on May 3, this year, Aisha pleaded guilty to entering Ghana while prohibited from re-entry contrary to section 20(4) of the Immigration Act, 2000, Act 573.
While Aisha Huang had denied the remaining three charges, it was the court’s view that she contradicted herself in her defence statements in the trial which lasted for one year, two months.
Plea of mitigation
Miracle Attachey, counsel for Aisha, in his plea of mitigation said his client had been in custody since October 2022.
He, therefore, prayed the court to impose a fine and deport his client instead of a custodial sentence.
“It is our humble prayer that a custodial sentence to the accused would exert another financial burden on the state, particularly the prison service.
“She has made the work of the prosecution and court move expeditiously regarding her re-entry charge,” he added.
In a sharp response, the DPP said taking into consideration the impact of Aisha’s action on the families and witnesses who testified before this court, it was imperative for the court to impose a maximum custodial sentence and a deportation order.
“In conclusion, we wish to state that because of the indignity with which the accused person operated, the sentence should reflect the impact of her actions on the people of Ghana, the communities that she had permanently impaired and the livelihoods that she took away,” she said.
Sentencing the convict, Justice Marfo stressed the need for the law to go after landowners fond of giving their lands out for illegal mining, adding, “because Aisha Huang is a foreigner, she does not know anybody or what goes on there”.
She said if the law was strict on chiefs and farmers, “I am sure they won’t have the effrontery to give out the lands.
“Until that is done, the kingpins who benefit will never show their heads; they will continue hiding until we end up bathing ‘pure water’ which is too expensive for us, especially those in the rural areas,” the judge added.
Following Aisha’s conviction, a Deputy Attorney-General, Alfred Tuah Yeboah has said no illegal miner would be spared.
“It should be a lesson to the others that you may be engaged in illegal mining but when your time comes, the law will deal with you,” he added.
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