Opuni trial: State objects to tendering of document through its witness
State Prosecutors in the trial of Dr Stephen Opuni former Chief Executive Officer of the COCOBOD and Mr Seidu Agongo, also Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited on Wednesday objected to tendering of a document through its witness.
Mrs Yvonne Atakora Oboubisa, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who made the objection told an Accra High Court the witness was not the author of the document and that it’s a document from Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) of which the witness had earlier denied of its existence.
She said the witness has not said he has seen the document before in his evidence in chief and no reference was made whatsoever about the said document.
“This document cannot be tendered through the witness for him to answer question on,” she added.
The DPP said no foundation was laid concerning the tendering of the said document, to show that the witness knew and have knowledge about the document, indicating that “the fact that the witness works at CRIG and know the author does not mean he can answer questions on the document.”
She said the document, if it would be tendered should have enough foundation laid for the author to speak to it, the document does not fall clearly under any of the exceptions.
Mrs Atakora Oboubisa said there would be no admissibility, if the document was tendered through the witness and it would serve no purpose, since he (Dr Alfred Arthur), the witness would not be able to it and prayed the court not to allow its tendering.
She said the document must be tendered at the appropriate time through the right witness.
In response, Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the Counsel for Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited said the document was brought to court on the orders of court and the fact that it was an official document was not in doubt.
He said the witness was in court to give evidence in the capacity as an official from CRIG and not in his personal capacity as Dr Arthur.
He said the witness has demonstrated enough knowledge on the activities of CRIG to say that in 2014/ 2015, there was no re-evaluation of fertilizer for which certificate were issued.
The Counsel said a witness should not be an author of a document before, that document could be tendered through them.
Mr Nutsukpui said it would be unfair to the witness, since he had told the court that CRIG had never described the product as Lithovit Liquid fertilizer.
He said the prosecution had not demonstrated any known legal bases for which the document should be excluded.
Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge ruling on the objection said upon hearing the DPP and Counsel for second and third accused persons, “it is my opinion that upon the perusal of the sort of document to be tendered, it is clear that the document is signed by Dr K. Opoku Ameyaw.”
He said he had also looked at proceedings dated December 3, 2018, where the witness denied knowledge of the said document to be tendered.
He also agreed with the DPP that not much foundation had been laid for the tendering of the document, explaining that there was a signature of Dr Ameyaw on the document, the Counsel should have asked the witness to identify the signature of the author and if that had been done it would have been easier and relevant for it to be tendered through the witness.
“I think that it will be unfair to tender a document through a witness, who denied its existence,” he stressed.
At this juncture of the ruling, Mr Nutsukpui prayed for the ruling to be halted, saying that based on the argument from the prosecution, “We will like to withdraw the document sort to be tendered, which is from CRIG”.
Justice Honyenugah said the Counsel has applied to withdraw the said document and that the ruling would not be applicable
At the Court’s sitting on Wednesday, the Court announced that it has received the attached documents it demanded from COCOBOD at the last adjourned date.
The Deputy Director, Legal of COCOBOD, Mr Johannes Velba at the last sitting said “we have set up a committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the unavailability of a letter dated November 20, 2014.”
Mr Velba prayed the court for some time to look for that document.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the Court.
The Court adjourned the case to Wednesday, January 16, 2019 for continuation of the trial.