Opuni challenges fresh trial appeal records
Former boss of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has objected to the record of appeal filed by the Attorney–General (A-G) seeking to overturn the decision by the High Court to start the six-year-old trial afresh.
Counsel for Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe, made an oral application before the Court of Appeal last Wednesday arguing that the record of appeal had some missing pages which could negatively affect the determination of the appeal.
According to him, it should not be the case that an accused person would face injustice and be sent to prison because of incomplete record of appeal
He, therefore, prayed the court to direct the registrar of the High Court to compile the entire record of appeal and transmit same to the Court of Appeal.
“We submit that the Court of Appeal does not have the full records to make an informed decision with respect to the appeal,” he said.
Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for the second accused person, Seidu Agongo, associated himself with the submissions of Mr Cudjoe and added that the record of appeal was also saddled with mistakes.
An incomplete record, counsel said, would not allow justice to be done as required by law.
The A-G, Godfred Yeboah Dame, opposed the application on the basis that it was unknown to the rules of court.
It was the contention of the A-G that the rules of court allowed the registrar to transmit only relevant materials as record of appeal.
According to Mr Dame, all the relevant materials needed for the appeal, including the ruling by the High Court to start the case afresh, the arguments by the lawyers, the charge sheet and other pieces of records, were part of the record of appeal.
The A-G further said only 25 pages out of the 4,000 pages forming the record of appeal were omitted, but the lawyers for Opuni and Agongo had failed to demonstrate how that omission would negatively affect the ability of their clients to respond to the appeal.
“The material part of the record is not faulty with errors or omissions, there can ,therefore, not be any prejudice to the accused persons,” Mr Dame submitted.
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Philip Bright Mensah, Justices Jennifer Dadzie and Dr Ernest Owusu-Dapaa, adjourned the case to June 14 to rule on the application.
The trial High Court judge, Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, on April 4, this year, ruled that the trial which had been ongoing for the past five years would restart from scratch.
Justice Gyimah is a new judge assigned to the case by the Chief Justice following the retirement of Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.
With the new development, the prosecution filed an application urging the High Court to adopt the previous proceedings of the case before Justice Honyenuga, which had been ongoing for five years.
However, in a ruling, Justice Gyimah said the trial must start afresh because it would be unfair for him to adopt the proceedings of Justice Honyenuga, which had been “saddled” with numerous allegations.
The A-G then filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of the High Court to start the trial afresh, with a case that the decision was against the tenets of fair trial.
It is the case of the A-G that Justice Gyimah misdirected himself by the manner in which he refused to adopt the evidence already adduced at the trial.
Dr Opuni is standing trial with Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemical company.
State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser transactions.
It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser was substandard and has accused Agongo of allegedly using fraudulent means to sell the fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.