In the GH¢217m financial loss case: Opuni, Agongo trial begins … they plead not guilty, court grants them bail

NDC sympathisers at the court .Photo Daniel Amoo

NDC sympathisers at the court .Photo Daniel Amoo

Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the former Executive Director of COCOBOD who has been accused of willfully causing financial loss of GH¢217,000 to the state was yesterday granted GH¢300,000 self-recognizance bail by an Accra High Court.

This was after he pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges of defrauding by false pretences, corruption of public officer, breach of Public Procurement Authority Act (PPA) and money laundering among other charges preferred against him by the state.

His accomplice, Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, a company that deals in import and export of farm produce was also admitted to bail in the same amount as the first accused, Dr Opuni.

Counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Codjoe, urged the court to admit his client to self recognizance bail and said the accused would not abscond from justice.

For his part, Benson Nuksukpi, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited, said his client was a businessman with more than 5,000 workers, adding that the case presented by the state “do not entirely represent the facts.”

In granting them bail, Justice C.J Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal Judge, with additional responsibility as High Court Judge ordered the accused to deposit their travel passports with the Director General of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.

As part of the bail conditions, the court further asked Dr Opuni and Agongo to inform the Director General of CID, before they travel outside Ghana.

The Director CID, Justice Honyenuga noted should within 48 hours inform the Registrar of Land Court “11” where the case is being heard of the activities of the accused.

Prosecuting, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo who led a team of lawyers comprising her two deputies, Messrs Godfred Dame Yeboah and Joseph Dindon Kpemka said, on May 15, 2015 COCOBOD sent a sample of “Lithovit Fertilizer” submitted through Agongo, second accused on behalf of Agricult, the third accused to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana for testing and certification.

She said a draft report on the “effect” of Lithovit on cocoa seedlings was submitted to the head of soil science upon which a final report recommending Lithovit to be applied to mature cocoa even though no field test had been conducted on the cocoa.

Investigations she said, revealed that Dr Opuni, upon assumption of office as the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, directed contrary to established policy and standard practice that, the period for testing which takes six months be shortened.

Ms Akuffo submitted that upon the direction of the former COCOBOD boss, no laboratory tests were conducted for the renewal of certificate for the use of Lithovit on cocoa.

Even though Agricult Ghana Limited did not apply for the renewal of certificate as required, its certificate was renewed on the instructions of Dr Opuni.

She said on February 19, 2014, Dr Opuni applied to the Public Procurement Authority for Agricult Limited to be single sourced to procure 700,000 litres of Lithovit Foliar fertilizer although conditions for single source had not been satisfied.

In addition, Dr Opuni was alleged to state the price for the 700,000 litres at $19,250,000 (GH¢43,120,000) though the substance sent for testing was in powdery form not liquid.

Again, it is the case of the state that by a letter dated December 2014, Dr. Opuni applied to the PPA for Agricult to be single sourced to procure 700,000 Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer for 2014/2015 cocoa season at $19,950,000( GH¢75,289,314.72) in violation of the procedure for single source.

Ms Akuffo said on December 30, 2014, PPA approved the procurement of Llithovit.

The prosecution stated that by a letter dated October 16, 2015, Dr Opuni applied to the PPA for Agricult to be single sourced to procure one million litres of Lithovit fertiliser at $26,500,000 (GH¢98,935,974.50) for the 2015/2016 season without following laid down procedure for single sourcing.

Following this, the PPA on November 4, 2015, approved the application for single source procurement to Agricult Limited.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice said three contract agreements dated March 26, 2014, February 2, 2015 and December 31,  2015 were executed by Dr. Opuni with Agricult Limited through Agongo.

She said investigations revealed the contract dated February 6, 2015 was executed when Agricult did not have valid certificate to supply Lithovit.

Mr Akuffo said when the product arrived in Ghana, no test was conducted on it to ensure it was a fertilizer.

She stated that further investigations revealed COCOBOD spent $65,200.000 (GH¢217,345,289) on purchases on Lithovit without any significant yield.

The case has been adjourned to April 11, 16, 17, 24 and 30.

 

 

 

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