Stephen Kwabena Opuni
Stephen Kwabena Opuni

No stolen booty found in Opuni’s house after ‘excavation’ — Lawyer

The extensive searches including a reported excavation for alleged stolen booty conducted in the house of the former boss of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Stephen Kwabena Opuni, became a topical issue in his trial at the Accra High Court last Wednesday.

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During cross-examination, counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe, inquired from a witness whether the numerous searches of his client’s official residence in Accra and family house in Dorma Ahemkro led to the discovery of any stolen item.

The witness, Paul Agyei Gyang, a Senior Operational staff at the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), admitted that nothing was found after the searches, but refuted counsel’s claims that investigators excavated Mr Opuni’s house in search of stolen booty.

Not guilty

Dr Opuni and Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemical company, were dragged to court in March 2018.

State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser transactions.

It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser was substandard and has accused Agongo of allegedly using fraudulent means to sell the fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.

It has further accused Dr Opuni of using his position as the CEO of COCOBOD (November 2013 to January 2017) to facilitate the alleged acts of Agongo by allowing the Lithovit fertiliser not to be tested and certified as required by law.

Dr Opuni and Agongo have pleaded not guilty to 24 counts ranging from wilfully causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretence, contravention of procurement laws, corruption of a public officer and manufacturing fertiliser without registration.

The two are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

Searches

Mr Gyang is testifying as a defence witness for Agongo after being subpoenaed by the court following a request by lawyers for the businessman.

During the cross-examination, Mr Codjoe sought to establish that the searches conducted at his client’s premises during the investigations in 2017 were so extensive to the extent that the room of Dr Opuni’s deceased mother was searched without any regard to tradition.

According to counsel, during the searches, his client was not given access to his phone, neither was he given prior notice of the searches or were his lawyers allowed to accompany him on the searches.

However, the witness countered that the investigative team sought the consent of Dr Opuni before conducting the said searches, and that the former cocoa boss was with his lawyer all the time.

Mr Gyang also informed the court that it would have been against best practices in investigations to give Dr Opuni prior notice before conducting a search in his residence and family house.

Below are excerpts of what ensued between the witness and counsel. 

Mr Codjoe:  When the investigative team conducted these searches, nothing was found which were connected to the allegations under investigations. Is that not so?

Mr Gyang: Yes, nothing was found on the premises connected to the allegations under investigations.

Mr Codjoe: Before the search, you did not give him prior notice of this search but he was informed on the day of the searches when he was in the company of his lawyers at EOCO.

Mr Gyang: I would not be surprised. Because as part of the best practices in investigations, it was only proper that he was told on the very day in the presence of his lawyer.

Hearing continues at the court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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