Dr Opuni’s trial: Prosecution witness fails to turn up in court

Dr. Stephen Opuni

The fifth prosecution witness in the case where the former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has been charged for causing financial loss to the state failed to turn up in court.

On Wednesday, the Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelsen told the Accra High Court judge that the witness could not appear in court due to some unforeseen circumstances.

“We received late information from the fifth witness that due to some circumstances beyond his control he could not come to court. All efforts to get other witnesses too were unsuccessful due to the late information,” she told the court.

The Chief State Attorney prayed for an adjournment to enable the team prepare adequately for the trial.

The defense counsel agreed for an adjournment since there were no witnesses.

Having heard their plea, the Accra High Court judge, Clemence Honyenuga granted their request.

The case is set to continue on October 21, 2020.

Witnesses so far include the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, a research scientist at CRIG Dr Alfred Arthur, CEO of CRIG Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah and the National Director of the Plant Protection Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) Dr Felicia Ansah-Amprofi.

Background

In March 2018, the A-G charged the former CEO of Ghana COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Seidu Agongo, who is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, for causing financial loss to the state.

The two have been charged with 27 counts, including allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.

The illegalities led to the distribution of sub-standard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertilizer to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on a GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail each.

Prior to Monday’s hearing, on March 16, the court dismissed a motion seeking the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah to recuse himself from continuing with the trial, alleging he made certain comments on a different forum.

On February 18, this year, Justice Honyenugah, who is also the Paramount Chief of Nyagbo Traditional Area, showered President Akufo-Addo with his sterling performance.

“We wish to congratulate you on the excellent manner in which you are governing this dear country of ours. It is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians will consider giving you another term, Torgbui Nyagasi [Justice Honyenuga] had said.

Lawyers for Dr Opuni, contended that statement by the judge even in his capacity as a traditional leader, was a clear indication of support for the president.

The motion was seeking the trial judge, who was a Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, to stop the trial and refer the matter to the Chief Justice for reassignment.

The court in its ruling dismissing the application said the allegations raised on his comments were non-judicial and do not touch on the instant case.

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