Witnesses ‘running away’ from Opuni’s trial - Deputy A-G tells court
Some prosecution witnesses are unwilling to testify again in the new trial of a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and a businessman, Seidu Agongo.
A Deputy Attorney-General (A-G), Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, who made this known at the Accra High Court Tuesday [April 25, 2023] said one witness was not enthused about testifying again after spending two years in the witness box over the case.
Another, he said, gave the excuse that he was on retirement, and was therefore not looking forward to be spending part of his retirement going to court to testify again.
Mr Tuah-Yeboah revealed this to the court when he moved an application for an extension of time for the prosecution to file its witness statements.
The extension of time, the Deputy A-G said, would give his outfit ample time to talk to the witnesses and convince them to testify again at the trial.
Lawyers for Opuni and Agongo, Samuel Cudjoe and Benson Nutsukpui, respectively did not oppose the application by the Deputy A-G
Consequently, the court, presided over by Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, granted the application and adjourned the case to Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
During hearing on April 4, Justice Gyimah directed the parties to file their witness statements before April 21, 2023.
That was after the court had ruled that the trial which had been ongoing for the past five years would restart from scratch.
Justice Gyimah is a new judge assigned to the case by the Chief Justice following the retirement of Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.
With the new development, the prosecution filed an application urging the High Court to adopt the previous proceedings of the case before Justice Honyenuga, which had been ongoing for five years.
However, in a ruling, Justice Gyimah said the trial must start afresh because it would be unfair for him to adopt the proceedings of Justice Honyenuga, which had been “saddled” with numerous allegations.
Meanwhile, the A-G has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of the High Court to start the trial afresh, with a case that the decision was against the tenets of fair trial.
It is the case of the A-G that Justice Gyimah misdirected himself by the manner in which he refused to adopt the evidence already adduced at the trial.
Such a case, the A-G argued had occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The decision of the court to start the trial de novo (afresh) has occasioned a miscarriage of justice as it will hinder an efficient trial of the accused persons in the instant case,” the AG avers.
Dr Opuni is standing trial with Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemical company.
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 the charges and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.