Opuni battles EOCO for his bank accounts

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

The immediate past Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) have renewed their legal ‘warfare’ over control of the latter’s bank account.

Dr Opuni, who is standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GHc271.3m to the state, is before the Accra High Court, seeking to get access to his bank accounts which were frozen by EOCO by virtue of a court order obtained by the anti-graft agency.

In a very dramatic twist of fate, the embattled former COCOBOD boss had his bank accounts defrozen and frozen again by the Accra High Court within a period of 24 hours.

After months of having his bank accounts under the control of EOCO, Dr Opuni’s lawyers obtained a High Court order on April 23, 2018 for the accounts to be defrozen.

But the victory was short-lived, as EOCO filed an ex-parte motion the following day, April 24, 2018, and obtained another order from the same court for the accounts to be frozen again.


Opuni’s case

Not happy with EOCO’s action, Dr Opuni filed another application at the same High Court seeking to get access to his accounts.

His lawyers are of the view that EOCO acted in bad faith and also abused the court process.

According to his lead counsel, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, EOCO had become a “monster” bent on terrorising and making life uncomfortable for his client.

EOCO, he argued, had failed to show that the accounts had been tainted by any proceeds of crime and also wondered why the anti-graft body did not oppose his client’s first application for the accounts to be defrozen.

He argued that apart from GHc25,000 which the Attorney-General claimed was paid to his client as bribe, there was no alleged tainted money being held by his client.

“Even with the GHc25,000, we have denied that it was a bribe,’’ he said.

EOCO’s response

EOCO has, however, vehemently denied the assertions by Dr Opuni and defended its actions that led to the freezing of the accounts.

The lawyer for EOCO, Ms Jacqueline Avotri, yesterday told the court that EOCO’s actions were lawful and meant to ensure that the state would be able to recover money in the event Dr Opuni was convicted.

She argued that EOCO did not oppose Dr Opuni’s first application because at that time the freezing order had expired and EOCO had no legal basis to extend it.

“The old order has been dealt with and it was for investigation. The new order is to safeguard the accounts in case there is a successful conviction,” she said.

Counsel also submitted that per the EOCO Act, it was only the office that had the power to confiscate assets of proceeds of crime before a trial, during a trial and after a trial on behalf of other state agencies.

Ms Avotri took exception to the description of EOCO as a “monster” by Dr Opuni’s lawyers and prayed the court to reprimand them.

“The court should reprimand them for describing EOCO as a “monster” in the discharge of its statutory duties. We take exception to that description,’’ she submitted.

The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, is expected to rule on the matter on May 21, 2018.