Court gives defence counsels time to study report in Opuni’s trial

An Accra High Court has given defence counsels in the case involving Dr Stephen Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD and one other, time to study the committee report on the alleged missing of some letters and documents.

Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge said it was to enable justice to prevail and for the trial to continue smoothly.

He said it was unfortunate that the counsels for the accused persons were short served with the report and that serving of documents to interested parties was fundamental to fair trial.

The committee report was filed its report on the missing documents on February 1, 2019.

Dr Stephen Opuni, the former CEO of COCOBOD and Mr Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the Court.

The court on December 3, 2018, directed the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to furnish it with some letters and other documents to assist in the trial process by Tuesday December 11 last year upon an application by Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the lawyer for Mr Agongo.

The Ghana News Agency observed that on December 11, 2018 lawyers for CRIG and Cocoa Health and Extension Department filed the requested documents in court but while the documents were before the court it was detected that a document dated October 21, 2014 with CRIG 39/14 Vol. 19/6446 as its reference number was missing from the filed documents.

When Mr Johannes Velba, the Deputy Director, Legal at COCOBOD was invited by the court to explained why the particular document was not included, he explained that the document could not be traced and that a committee would be set up to investigate the circumstances leading to the missing of the documents.

The court asked the Deputy Director to file the committee’s report by February 4, 2019 of which it was filed on February 1, 2019”.

At the Court’s sitting on Wednesday, Mr Nutsukpui raised some concerns about the report.

He told the court that glancing through it, he noticed that with the introduction of the report, the 3-member committee to investigate the missing of the report, titled it as “Budget for the training and sensitization of farmers on the use of Lithovit fertilizer” but on the application for the order the title was different.

He said the title on the application order was titled “Budget for Agricult /CRIG training and sensitization for extension officers / farmers on the use of Agricult lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Mr Nutsukpui said “we are not sure from the title of the same document they are looking for or it is the paranoia at CRIG about the word liquid but if it is the same document then the title will have to include lithovit liquid fertilizer.”

He said the legal team do not want to believe that there was a deliberate effort from CRIG to omit the documents the court ordered them to produce.

The Counsel said their careful look at the report finding and observations under A; item two, which referred to the Appendix two, which was the invoice attached to the letter also raises the same issues.

He alleged that the report has been presented in court but the word liquid was taken out because of the paranoia at CRIG or because they were looking for a different document.

Mr Samuel Cudjoe, the Counsel for Dr Opuni associated himself with the submissions of Mr Nutsukpui and prayed the court to give them the opportunity to study the committee report and that all the accused persons needed time to study documents.

Mrs Yvonne Atakora Oboubisa, the Director of Public Prosecution in a response said the accused persons requested for a document of which was provided and filed in court, meanwhile CRIG, when they could not find some of the documents, set up a committee to investigate the whereabouts of the missing documents.

She said they have presented their report, which says they could not find the documents with the reference number CRIG 39/ 14 and it was their report that the court should go with, adding that what was relevant was the reference number, which was accurate.

“The title is irrelevant and it is not in evidence either,” she said.

Mrs Oboubisa said the witnesses from CRIG, who have testified so far for the State have not shy away from the word lithovit liquid fertilizer, they have stated clearly that, where the lithovit liquid fertilizer emanated from.

The DPP said Dr Arthur, the second prosecution witness under cross-examination said he only tested for lithovit powdery fertilizer, which is an exhibit before the court and that CRIG has never tested Agricult liquid lithovit fertilizer.

She said the witness indicated that even though they have found farmers using Agricult liquid lithovit fertilizer on the field it does not mean CRIG tested for it.

She said it was their case that all the documents, the defence has asked for has been filed in court and it was only the other ones the committee indicated in its report that it could not be found.

“Why do you need time to study a document you requested from CRIG, which is said to be missing? You cannot challenge the report, which says it is missing,” she said.

Mrs Oboubisa said the move is bent to further delay the trial and that even if the case was adjourned, the document was missing, says the report and an adjournment would not serve any purpose, it would just delay the trial needlessly.

The case has been adjourned to Tuesday, February 12, for continuation of the trial.

Source: GNA

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