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Opuni’s witness reports sick

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Dr Stephen Opuni — former CEO, COCOBOD
Dr Stephen Opuni — former CEO, COCOBOD

A witness in the trial of a former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has reported sick.

Samuel Torbi, a cocoa farmer, had testified last Monday at the Accra High Court as a defence witness for Dr Opuni, who is standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state.

He had testified that the fertiliser at the centre of the trial — lithovit liquid fertiliser — which the prosecution had argued was substandard, was rather of high quality and had increased his cocoa yields remarkably.

The witness was, therefore, expected to be cross-examined by the prosecution at yesterday’s hearing, but he failed to show up with the excuse that he was sick.

Lead counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe, told the Accra High Court that the witness was currently on admission at the emergency ward of a hospital in Accra (name withheld).

He said the witness, through another person, sent him a medical excuse duty last Tuesday evening, indicating that he was on admission at the said hospital.

According to counsel, the witness was suffering from a condition which could not be disclosed on the medical excuse duty due to confidentiality, but that he was willing to tell the judge in chambers.

Surprise

The prosecutor, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, who was ready to cross-examine Mr Torbi, expressed surprise at the turn of events, saying the witness was in good health two days earlier when he testified, and wondered what could have changed, especially when the excuse duty did not indicate the said illness.

The presiding judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court judge, also expressed surprise at the development.

According to him, witnesses for Dr Opuni had developed a penchant for falling sick during cross-examinations.

“It seems witnesses for the first accused always fall sick during cross-examination. I remember we had to adjourn this case for two whole weeks because the first defence witness (DW1) was allegedly sick and was on cross-examination.

“This case has been going on for four years without ending, so it is very unfortunate that DW2 has to suffer the same fate as DW1,” Justice Honyenuga said.

He subsequently adjourned the case to May 23, 2022.

Background

Dr Opuni is standing trial with businessman Seidu Agongo, CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, producers of the lithovit liquid fertiliser.

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