Opuni trial: AG’s witness didn’t show up in court
The Attorney General’s office was to present a new prosecution witness who failed to show-up in court yesterday to testify in the trial of the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and two others.
The Accra High Court, presided over by a Supreme Court judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, was told by the Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, that the witness, who will be the fifth, informed them of his inability to attend the court at the very last minute.
She prayed the court to afford them some time to enable the prosecution prepare the next witness.
Justice Clemence Honyenuga upheld the plea and adjourned the case to Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
The Attorney General (A-G) has so far presented four prosecution witnesses – Franklin Manu Amoah, who is the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Alfred Arthur, a Scientist at CRIG, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, former Chief Executive of Agronomy Quality Control (A&QC) of COCOBOD, and Dr Felicia Ansah-Amprofi, Director Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).
Dr Stephen Opuni is standing trial with businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited and are to answer 27 counts of various charges.
The charges include wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption, and defrauding by false pretence.
In March 2018, the state, led by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo, alleged that Dr Opuni schemed with the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, Mr Agongo, to secure a GH¢43.1 million worth of fertiliser contract, even when the two knew the terms and conditions could not be met.
According to her, the fertilisers were to be imported from Germany for onward distribution to farmers for the 2013/2014 cocoa farming season.
However, the fertilisers were produced locally by Mr Agongo’s company, contrary to the terms of the agreement.
She further alleged that investigations had revealed that Dr Opuni signed the contracts three days after the inauguration of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in January 2017.
In February 2017, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) froze the assets of Dr Opuni as part of investigations into his tenure as CEO of COCOBOD.
The state observed that a clandestine strategy was carried out in the subsequent farming seasons, resulting in a major contract costing GH¢75.3 million in 2015.
His passport was seized and he was subsequently invited by the EOCO, where he reportedly endured some six long hours of questioning on a wide range of issues, including alleged massive corruption in the cocoa sector.
In March 2017, the government cancelled the contract worth GH¢255 million awarded by the John Mahama administration for the supply of farm inputs to cocoa farmers, upon the advice of the newly inaugurated Board of COCOBOD, chaired by Hackman Owusu Agyemang.
The contract was for the supply of pesticides, weedicides, fungicides, insecticides and fertilisers to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers throughout the country.
However, it was later detected that six companies involved in the supply of the chemicals all belonged to one person, necessitating the abrogation, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang revealed.