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General News of Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Look for documents for Opuni — High Court orders

The fight for the disclosure of documents continues to be the main theme in the trial of former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

The protracted disagreement between the Attorney-General (A-G) and Dr Opuni’s lawyers has led the Accra High Court to issue its third order for the prosecution to disclose its documents to facilitate the defence of the accused.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, on Monday ordered investigators of the case to fish out certain documents requested by the former COCOBOD boss.

According to the presiding judge, the investigators should contact the COCOBOD for the documents and release them to the A-G, who will in turn file the documents at the court registry on or before July 13, 2018, to enable Dr Opuni’s lawyers to have access to them.

“In order for the trial not to stall and in the interest of justice, the investigator should contact the relevant persons for the documents and release them to the Attorney-General,’’ Mr Justice Honyenuga ordered.

War for documents

Dr Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, have been slapped with a total of 27 charges for allegedly engaging in illegalities in a series of fertiliser transactions which led to the procurement and distribution of substandard fertilisers to farmers and caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.

They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Lawyers for the accused have been battling the A-G to gain access to certain documents, which they argue are crucial to the defence of their clients.

Following a Supreme Court ruling on June 7, 2018, Mr Justice Honyenuga ordered the A-G to furnish the accused with the documents they requested.

On July 4, 2019, counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, however, informed the court that not all the documents had been given to him by the A-G.

According to him, he still needed documents such as all letters written by the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) that permitted Dr Opuni to sole source for Lithovit Follair Fertilisers, which is the fertiliser at the centre of the court case.

He is also demanding for all certificates issued by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to the COCOBOD for all fertilisers between 2008 and 2018, documents signed by certain officials of COCOBOD, among other documents.

Such documents, he argued, would show that his client did not breach any law, but rather acted in compliance with the laid down rules and regulations.

State prosecutors, in response, had stated that the A-G did not have those documents requested by counsel and as far as the A-G was concerned, it had furnished the accused with all the documents in its possession

After the arguments, Mr Justice Honyenuga, once again ordered the A-G to do everything within its power to furnish the accused with the documents they had requested.

“Delay tactics”

At yesterday’s hearing, a Chief State Attorney, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, informed the court that the A-G was unable to get access to the documents because they were not in its possession or any other body under the A-G.

She stated that some of the documents used for the investigations had been returned to institutions related to the case such as the COCOBOD.

“We have obeyed the decision of the Supreme Court and have given them everything in our possession. The documents are not relevant and are also not in our possession. We pray that this should not delay the trial,” she argued.

Not delay tactics

The arguments by Mrs Keelson were vehemently opposed by Mr Cudjoe and Agongo’s lawyer, Mr Benson Nutsukpui.

Mr Cudjoe wondered why the prosecution would describe the documents as irrelevant after claiming they had not seen them.

He refuted claims by the prosecution that the demand for the documents was part of efforts to delay the trial.

“We do not want to delay the trial, rather we are anxious for it to go ahead in order to clear our name,’’ he said.