Opuni trial: Court upholds objection to tender document through Prosecution witness

Dr. Stephen Opuni

An Accra High Court on Monday upheld an objection raised by the prosecution in the case involving Dr Stephen Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD and one other for documents to be tendered through its witness.

The court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge sitting as an additional High Court Judge said upon hearing objection for and against tendering of the documents, he was of the view that the counsel for the accused person should have applied for an order to compelled the authors of the said document to appear in court and subject them to scrutiny.

The court said the document sought to be tendered through the prosecution witness is a committee’s report and its attachment filed on the orders of the Court after a committee set up by COCOBOD to investigate the circumstance that resulted in some pages missing from documents filed in the case.

The Judge said the document was a committee report that the witness never appeared before or testified, adding that the witness has also disputed certain signatures of the authors of the committee report.

The court said it would be unfair or against the rules of procedure in court to admit such a document through the witness under the circumstances.

Justice Honyenugah said the authors of the document were still available and could have been invited to tender the document in issue to determine its trustworthiness or otherwise.

“The document is also not the handmade of the witness,” he stressed.

He said the witness never admitted being a member or testified to the committee to enable his credibility to be tested.

He said it was his opinion that the authors of the report were still in their official employment and admitting the document in this way would offend the hearsay rule in the Evidence Act.

“The document is a committee report and its attachment written by officials of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), who are still in their official employment and they will have been better witnesses to tender the document in evidence,” he said.

He said even though the witness was an officer of CRIG, he had not been served or noticed to testify in that capacity and in any case, he was neither a party or appeared before the committee.

He said it would be unfair to tender a document through a witness, who does not know anything about the document

Mrs Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecution representing the State in her objection had said the witness has never denied the document the counsel for the accused sought to tender through him.

She said the fact that lawyers for CRIG filed a document before the court does not mean they could be admitted through the witness, adding that documents file in the court ought to be admitted through the right witnesses.

Mr Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for Mr Seidu Agongo Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana who is also the second accused said it was their position that the witness previously tendered in evidence official documents he did not author.

He said it was therefore not the position of the law that unless one authors a document before it could be tendered through him.

Mr Nutsukpui in a cross-examination of Dr Alfred Arthur, a Scientist at CRIG asked the witness, whether when he collected the report from the chairman of the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machines (CTCM) he knew the committee existed.

The witness admitted and said at the time he was a member of the committee.

Mr Nutsukpui asked the witness that when he told the Criminal Investigations Department, that the lead author of the scientific test report was the officer, who would submit the report, you knew it existed?  The witness agreed and said in 2013 he was a member so he knew that.

The Defence Counsel again pointed out to the witness that Dr F. M. Amoah, the then Executive Director of CRIG in his evidence in court stated that one of the first things he did when he assumed office in 2009 was to set up the CTCM.

The witness in answer said that in 2009 he was not in the employment of COCOBOD, so he would not know that.

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 contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail.

The Court adjourned the trial to Monday, March 4, for continuation.

Source: GNA

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