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General News of Wednesday, 27 March 2019


Cocobod fertilizer trial: Agongo, DPP run to Appeals Court for help

Second prosecution witness, Dr. Alfred Arhtur of CRIG Second prosecution witness, Dr. Alfred Arhtur of CRIG

The High Court in Accra was forced to adjourn sitting on Wednesday after it was confronted with two motions from businessman Seidu Agongo and the Director of Public Prosecution respectively.

Seidu Agongo who is the second accused person, and Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), are seeking varied interventions at the apex court in a case in which Mr. Agongo and his company Agricult Ghana Limited are being tried alongside Dr Stephen Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), accused of engaging in acts that incurred financial loss of GH¢271.3m to the state in a series of fertiliser deals.

After an unsuccessful attempt to stay proceedings at the High Court pending interlocutory appeal, Mr. Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Agongo, told the court his client has gone back to the Appeals Court to quash the ruling dismissing the stay of proceedings on March 18.

The motion to stay proceeding was tied to an earlier decision of the High Court presided over by Justice Honyenugah that rejected the tendering of a “germane” report on February 25 filed by Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), a division of Cocobod.

The report and its attachments, defence counsel maintained, vindicate the accused in the sense that the fertilizer supplied to COCOBOD by Agricult was liquid and not powdery as suggested by prosecution witness Dr. Alfred Arthur.

Dissatisfied Seidu Agongo went to the Appeals Court to get the lower court to rescind its decision to reject the tendering of the report. Subsequent to that, a motion was filed by Agongo to stay proceedings which was again shot down by the court last week.

The judge had maintained that “the impression created that the document is an official document is neither here nor there”.

So when sitting resumed on Wednesday March 27, Benson Nutsukpui notified the High Court of his client’s decision to get the Apex court to side with him on his call for stay of proceedings pending the interlocutory appeal.

The Appeals court has set May 6 to hear the case.

But the Director of Public Prosecution who felt the date was too long a time, filed a counter appeal at the Appeals Court for an abridgement of time. This appeal would be heard on April 2.

Mr. Nutsukpui, who claimed he was yet to be served and therefore does not know the reasons for the motion, said “we wait to be served and we will react appropriately.”

Mr. Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge adjourned the case to April 8 to know the outcome of the Appeals Court’s decision on the writ filed by the state.

Meanwhile, the High court had already admitted into evidence a document, dated July 2017, which reveals that even in the heat of investigations by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), CRIG was testing and renewing certification of the Lithovit fertilizer and identifying it as liquid.

Dr. Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo have been charged with 27 counts, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer.

They have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and have each been granted a GHS300,000.00 self-recognisance bail by the court.