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Opuni fails to halt trial

BY: Justice Agbenorsi
Dr Stephen Opuni — former CEO, COCOBOD
Dr Stephen Opuni — former CEO, COCOBOD

A former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has failed to halt his trial at the Criminal Division of the High Court.

This was after the court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court judge, dismissed an application by Dr Opuni seeking to stay proceedings pending the determination of an appeal against the High Court’s decision.

The appeal — filed at the Court of Appeal — was against the trial court’s decision which ordered the former COCOBOD CEO to call his defence witnesses out of turn.

Dr Opuni is standing trial with two others for allegedly causing a financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state.

When the case was called yesterday[June 22, 2022], counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe, argued that the court erred when it stated that his client called his witnesses out of turn.

“The prosecution did not have this condition imposed on it when it was conducting its case, and this is because there were instances where this court adjourned the case to enable their witnesses who were not present in court to appear before the court.

“We also state that this being a criminal trial, our right to a fair trial would be breached if we are ordered to call our witnesses out of turn,” counsel said.

Motion opposed

However, the state, led by a principal state attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, opposed the motion, arguing that the accused had not demonstrated any exceptional circumstance for the court to grant a stay of proceedings.

She further told the court that it was well within the jurisdiction of the court to order Dr Opuni to call his witness out of turn.

“In that case, this interlocutory appeal on which this application is premised, in our humble opinion, is doomed to fail, and we, therefore, submit that the application should be refused,” the state attorney told the court.

Ruling

In his ruling, Justice Honyenuga said no exceptional circumstance had been demonstrated to warrant the grant of stay of proceedings.

The court, he said, had the power to order witnesses out of turn in order to ensure effective trial.

He said the court had never breached the applicant’s right to fair hearing, and subsequently dismissed the motion.

Background

Dr Opuni is standing trial with businessman, Seidu Agongo, Chief Executive of Agricult Ghana Limited, producers of the lithovit liquid fertiliser, the acquisition of which has been the key subject of the trial.

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

Dr Opuni and Agongo have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

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