Counsel for Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), has described a prosecution witness in a court case against his client as being "untruthful".
According to Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe, the witness, Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), had peddled falsehoods against his client.
Dr Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial for allegedly engaging in various illegalities that caused financial loss of GHC271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
In his evidence-in-chief, Dr Amoah told the Accra High Court that Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD boss, had directed CRIG to reduce the testing period for agrochemicals and fertilisers.
The witness said due to Dr Opuni's directive, CRIG reduced the testing period for Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), the fertiliser at the centre of the trial, from the stipulated two years to six months.
During the cross-examination yesterday, Mr Cudjoe asked Dr Amoah if CRIG had released its report on the LFF before or after Dr Opuni had issued the said directive.
Counsel specifically referred to a meeting in Dr Opuni's office in which Dr Amoah had said the former COCOBOD CEO had directed CRIG officials to reduce the testing period for fertilisers and agrochemicals.
The witness replied that Dr Opuni had issued the directive on various occasions, such as at his first meeting with staff of CRIG on January 9, 2014, before the said meeting in his office had taken place.
But Mr Cudjoe accused Dr Amoah of being "untruthful" under oath, an assertion that was refuted by the witness.
Dr. Stephen K. Opuni
Below are excerpts of the cross-examination.
Lawyer Cudjoe: Was the meeting before or after the recommendation of the use of LFF on mature cocoa by CRIG?
Dr Amoah: I don't remember.
Lawyer Cudjoe: You don't remember because you don't want to remember and that you are being very untruthful to the court, even under oath.
Dr Amoah: That is not true.
Banter over directive
Mr Cudjoe subsequently refuted claims by the witness that Dr Opuni had issued any such directive.
He argued that if his client had issued any such directive, it would have been communicated in written form and not verbally.
But Dr Amoah disagreed with him and stated that Dr Opuni had issued the directive verbally.
"Dr Opuni's modus operandi was to issue verbal directives. He would normally not write. Other scientists who received the directive were there and they can attest to what I am saying," the witness said.
Mr Cudjoe then shifted gear and stated that the claim by the witness meant that CRIG, as an independent research body, allowed itself to be influenced in its work.
"You are not to allow your work to be influenced, especially research findings," he averred.
The witness replied that that was how it was supposed to be, but Dr Opuni gave the directive and it had to be obeyed.
"This is the situation where a new CEO comes and gives directives. He says he is also a scientist and knows what he is talking about," the witness stated.
The cross-examination will continue on October 8, 2018 when the Judiciary returns from its legal vacation.