Justice Honyenuga refers Opuni case to Chief Justice

Chief Justice Anin Yeboah

Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, the Judge hearing the case, involving Dr Stephen Opuni, a Former Chief Executive of COCOBOD and two others, has asked the Chief Justice to appoint a new trial judge.

This is because he has been the trial Judge since 2018 and following his retirement last September, he was granted a six-month extension by the Chief Justice to conclude and determine the case but could not. That mandate expired in February 2023.

It was for this reason that Mr Alfred Tuah- Yeboah. Deputy Attorney-General, made a request to the trial judge for the case to be referred to the Chief Justice looking at the limited time to conclude the matter.

The Deputy A-G, who initiated the move, said the request was made in the interest of justice and fairness.

Dr Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo, a Businessman are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, and corruption by public officer in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

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

The trial judge in deciding on referring the trial to the Chief Justice, said the State, through the A-G initiated the criminal proceedings against the accused persons and it was the same A-G through the Deputy A-G was making the request for the referral due to limited time in his favour.

Justice Honyenuga said to continue to hear the case, it was clear that it was impossible for him to conclude and determine the matter.

“In the circumstance, l will uphold the submission of the Deputy A-G and granted the request for the trial to be referred to the Chief Justice for appointment of a new trial judge under Section 105 of the Courts Act of 1993 (Act 459),” he said.

He said, it was here by ordered for the pendency of the case to refer the matter for the direction of the Chief Justice, adding that the Registry of the court should follow up with the order of the court.

Initially, there were discussions as to whether the motion on notice for the recusal of the trial judge from further hearing the matter should be excluded from the docket to be referred to the Chief Justice.

Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, Counsel for Agongo, said it was their submission that the motion being a process on the case docket remained on the docket for the Chief Justice to be reassigned to a new judge for consideration.

He said it was their prayer that as the docket was being returned to the Chief Justice, the motion should be included for the reassignment.

Mr Samuel Cudjoe, Counsel for Dr Opuni, said, “in my opinion, once the motion is part of the docket, it should be part of the records.”

Mrs Stella Ohene-Appiah, Principle State Attorney, said they were of the view that, since the docket was going to be reassigned, the motion would no longer be necessary and so there was nothing wrong with Counsel for Agongo, withdrawing the motion at that stage.

She said, however, if the Counsel wanted the motion to go before a new trial judge as part of the referral process, “we think that it should be on the docket.”

The case has been adjourned to March 15, 2023.

Source: GNA

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