Ghana has suspended seven of 12 High Court judges implicated in allegations of bribery stemming from a documentary made by an investigative journalist.
The seven had a case of “misbehaviour” to answer, an official statement said.
Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas says he has nearly 500 hours of video evidence on tape, showing judges alleging asking for bribes and demanding sex.
Twenty-two lower court judges have also been suspended. Some of the judges have denied the allegations.
Mr Anas’ documentary has shocked the nation, and has been shown to packed houses at cinemas in the capital, Accra.
The seven are the most senior judges to be suspended so far in what is the biggest corruption scandal to hit Ghana’s judiciary.
Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood had established a “prima facie case of stated misbehaviour against them”, the statement by Ghana’s Judicial Council said.
An inquiry would now be held to determine whether or not they are guilty, it added.
They could be sacked if they are found guilty.
The public is keenly following the scandal and it has been the lead story in the local media for almost a month.
But people are no longer queuing at cinemas to see Mr Anas’s film – Ghana in the eyes of God; Epic of Injustice – which is touring the country and had reached the second city, Kumasi, after showing to packed houses in the capital, Accra. This is because a court has, for now, blocked further screenings in the city, following a case brought by one of the implicated judges who says its screening will prejudice him.
The courts resumed sitting this week after a holiday break. But the suspension of judges has meant delays in judgements as their workload is being handed over to colleagues, who are already overburdened.
Of the other five High Court judges implicated by the investigation – two have retired, another two are in court challenging it and one has been cleared as a case of mistaken identity
Last month, 22 lower court judges and magistrates were suspended pending the outcome of investigations ordered by the chief justice.
Lawyers for 14 of the accused judges have denied the allegations and the High Court has dismissed their attempt to get the investigation suspended. The other accused judges have yet to comment in public.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas is something of an enigma, as he is never seen in public without a disguise. His fans call him a modern-day folk hero or the “James Bond of journalism” for his work in exposing alleged corruption and malpractice in Ghana and beyond.
In his 15 years of undercover journalism he has among other disguises, posed as a female investor in high heels, sunglasses and lipstick, and a janitor in a brothel. He has also secreted himself inside a fake rock placed at the side of the road with a peep hole for his eyes.
In his work he has exposed a human trafficking racket, corruption in the police and malpractice in a food processing plant.
He argues that “there is no point in doing journalism, if it does not lead progress in your society”. Before becoming a journalist, Mr Anas worked as a lawyer for two years.