The trial of former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and businessman Seidu Agongo, will re-start from scratch, the new judge assigned to preside over the case has ruled.
In a ruling today (April 4, 2023), Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, said it would be unfair for him to adopt a proceeding that was “saddled” with numerous allegations.
The case was originally before retired Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga.
When did Opuni, Agongo case start?
The case started in 2017.
In March 2018, the Attorney-General charged Dr Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of sub-standard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
“It would be unfair for the court to ignore the allegations and adopt the previous proceedings as it is,” the judge ruled on Tuesday morning reports Graphic Online’s Justice Agbenorsi who was in the courtroom.
“In order for the court to have a first hand information of the trial and the demeanor of witnesses, the court will start the trial ‘De Novo’” the new judge said.
Justice Gyimah also pointed out that, an accused person was by law required fairness and that presumption of innocence should not be over looked by the court.
He has ordered the parties to file their witnesses either before or on April 21, 2023.
The case has been adjourned to April 25, 2023 for Case Management Conference
The prosecution led by, a Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, had last Thursday, March 30, 2023, moved a motion urging the court to adopt the previous proceedings to enable the trial continue.
But, the prosecution’s request was opposed to by defence lawyers led by Samuel Cudjoe and Benson Nutsukpui, for (first and second accused respectively) who prayed the court to start the trial ‘De Novo’ (afresh).
That was after Justice Honyenuga asked the High Court registrar to forward the case docket to the Chief Justice to assign a new judge because he was due for retirement.
Dr Opuni is standing trial with Seidu Agongo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agro-chemical company.
State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of lithovit foliar fertiliser transactions.
It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser was substandard, and has accused Agongo of allegedly using fraudulent means to sell the fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.
The prosecution has further accused Dr Opuni of using his position as CEO of COCOBOD (November 2013 to January 2017) to facilitate the alleged acts of Agongo by allowing the lithovit liquid fertiliser not to be tested and certified as required by law.
Dr Opuni and Agongo have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.
Source: Graphic Online