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General News of Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Source: kessbenfm.com

Attorney-General’s witness in Opuni trial accused of lying under oath

Lawyer for the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni on Monday, openly casted doubts of the Attorney-General’s witness accusing him of lying to the court that he was the Acting Head of the Division at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in Akyem Tafo in the Eastern Region, when he is not.

Word had apparently gotten to the legal team of Dr. Opuni that Dr. Alfred Arthur, a Soil Scientist at CRIG lied to the court in his Evidence-in-Chief that he had been appointed to head the Soil Division of CRIG when this was not the case.

Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe told the Accra High Court that with every appointment in any Division under CRIG, the communication was done through writing to the appointees but in the case of Dr. Arthur, he claimed no letter was given him.

According to Mr Cudjoe, Dr. Arthur deliberately lied even under oath to the court in a bid to convince the appointing authorities at CRIG to make him the Head of the Soil Science Division.

When asked whether he was given an appointment letter, Dr. Arthur said he was not given any appointment letter as the Acting Head but Mr Cudjoe disagreed and told the court that at CRIG, all appointment to positions and even acting positions were communicated through writing.

Dr Opuni’s counsel had asked Dr. Arthur whether he was presently the Acting Head of the Division but he answered in the negative.

Asked when he ceased to be the Acting Head of the Division under CRIG, he said November 2, 2018. Asked further whether at the last adjourned date he knew he was no more the Acting Head, he answered in the negative.

The witness however disagreed and said that not in all cases were appointment letters given, adding that; “My Lord I was not given an appointment letter, but I was asked to act in place of Mr A. A. Afrifa, who was on retirement”.

Mr Cudjoe was conducting cross-examination of Dr. Arthur, who is the second Prosecution witness in the trial of Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited.

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 pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GHC300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the Court.

Dr. Arthur had in his witness statement, stated that his boss at the time, Mr A. A. Afrifa, called him while on a trek in the Western Region to furnish him with a report on the testing of Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser, the agrochemical which is at the heart of the court case, on cocoa seedlings.

In court on Monday, however, Mr Cudjoe challenged that claim as he said Dr. Arthur, never mentioned anything about receiving a call from his boss to present the report in all his eight statements to the police.

Dr. Arthur, in response, said on Jan 12, 2018, at CRIG, one of the investigators from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Nana Oppong, asked about how the report was given to Mr A. A. Afrifa. He said he explained everything in the over 6-hour interrogation, after which he was asked to write his statement.

Dr. Arthur, continued that upon completion of his statement, he was asked if he had written down all that transpired; and when he wanted to make changes to the statement, the leader of the investigators, ASP Lodonu, denied him that opportunity, hence the reason for the omission of the call from Mr A. A. Afrifa, in his police statements.

Mr Cudjoe, then quizzed Dr. Arthur, about why in all his eight statements to the police, he never mentioned that Dr. Opuni, ever demanded any report from Mr Afrifa. To this, Dr. Arthur said he was not asked any question that demanded that answer.

Then Mr Cudjoe argued that if indeed, Dr Opuni, had made a request for the report as Dr. Arthur claimed Mr Afrifa, told him, he would have, at least, mentioned this important fact at the earliest opportunity, more especially when Dr. Opuni was no more the CEO of COCOBOD.

It was also put to Dr. Arthur that Jerome Dugbatse, research scientist at CRIG, who he had mentioned as one of three officers at CRIG who had allegedly taken serious exceptions with the shortening of the period of testing the efficacy of the Lithovit Fertilizer, had said that CRIG was already done with the research before he was employed, meaning he could not questioned a research he was not privy to.



Likened to other fertilizers

There was also a moment during the cross examination when Dr. Arthur claimed that adding two and three together does not amount to five in cocoa research.

This was when he had claimed that he had use the fertilizer on a two-month old cocoa seedling for three months and Mr Cudjoe, sought to tell him that mathematically, he had used the fertilizer of a plants which were up five months. His claim that two plus three isn’t five drew a wild laughter in the courtroom.

On some new details Dr. Arthur, had introduced in court, he claimed had forgotten to include them in his statements to the police but, Lawyer Cudjoe, reminded him this could not be so because he have written eight statements to the police and Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) and his repeated accounts in the statement were at variance with his testimony.

He had also claimed that some of his accounts in his handwritten police statements contradicted his evidence-in-chief because the statement were written per the questions asked him by those who interrogated him during the investigation; adding that some of the sessions took as long as 7 hours.

Dr. Arthur, who had in evidence in chief sought to condemn the Lithovit Fertilizer, who made to read a caution statement he had earlier given to the police dated January 16th 2018 in which he described the product from Agricult Ghana Limited as “very good”.

Same Dr. Arthur, had in another statement to EOCO dated 6th April 2017, stated that CRIG has no strict policy that all fertilizers had to be tested for a period of 4 years thus affirming Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah’s testimony to the court that he ensured that Lithovit went due process at CRIG.

Dr. Amoah, who until recent was the Executive Director at CRIG and first prosecution witness had told the court that wanting to ensure that the right was done, he referred the Lithovit sample to the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM); a body he personally set up to be responsible for the testing and evaluation of all agrochemicals and machines presented to CRIG by COCOBOD.

Dr. Amoah, said CTCM diligently worked on the Lithovit Fertilizer sample and prepared a certificate of approval for his signature thus authorizing COCOBOD to purchase the product.

Dr. Amoah vouched for his personal integrity and those of the scientists at the CRIG, saying they could not be pushed around by anyone including Dr. Opuni who he alleged had “verbally instructed” them to cut short the testing period but was defied.

The Court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge adjourned the case to today, Wednesday 14, for continuation of further cross-examination of the witness.