Opuni’s lawyer ‘clashes’ with prosecution witness over job title
Counsel for former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, who is standing trial over an alleged Gh¢271.3 million fertiliser scandal, has accused a prosecution witness of lying about his job title.
The witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, in his evidence-in-chief on October 29, 2018, told the Accra High Court that he was the acting Head of the Soil Science Division of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
The witness continued with his evidence-in-chief on November 2, 2018.
Dr Arthur, in his evidence-in-chief, testified that he tested the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), the said fertiliser which is the subject matter of the trial.
But during cross-examination on Monday November 12, lawyer Samuel Cudjoe sought to make a case that the witness was not the acting Head of the Soil Science Division of CRIG as he had presented himself.
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Counsel was particular that as of November 2, 2018 when the witness appeared before the court to continue with his evidence-in-chief, he was no longer the acting head of the Soil Science Division of CRIG, but the witness failed to inform the court.
In his response, Dr Arthur refuted counsel’s assertion and stated that he was not aware that as of November 2, 2018, he was no longer the acting Head.
Below are excerpts of the cross-examination
Mr Cudjoe: At the last adjourned date (November 2, 2018) when you gave your evidence-in-chief, you knew you were no more the acting Head?
Dr Arthur: No my Lord, I never knew at the last adjourned date.
Mr Cudjoe: I am putting it to you that you knew you were not the acting Head and you are being economical with the truth.
Dr Arthur: My Lord, I did not know that.
Mr Cudjoe then asked the witness if he was given an appointment letter when he was appointed as the acting Head, to which Dr Arthur replied in the negative.
Counsel submitted that in CRIG, all appointments, including those in acting capacities, were communicated to the appointees in writing.
But Dr Arthur replied that was not so in all cases and that in his case, he was asked to act as the Head when the substantive Head, Mr A.A Afrifa, went on retirement.
Mr Cudjoe then accused the witness of testifying against his client with the sole aim of getting his appointment as the acting Head confirmed.
“That is not correct,’’ Dr Arthur responded.
The cross-examination will continue on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at the court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.
Case against Opuni & Agongo
In March, 2018, the Attorney-General (A-G) charged Dr Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, with 27 counts.
It is the contention of the A-G that Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD CEO (November 2013 to January 2017), breached laid down procedures in procurement and other laws that led the state to lose GH¢271.3 million in the alleged fertiliser scandal and the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers
Agongo is also alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.
The two accused persons have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges.
They are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.