The Criminal High Court, Accra yesterday adjourned the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), to May 23, 2022.
This is because the second defence witness, Mr Samuel Tobi, a cocoa farmer, who testified on Monday in the alleged procurement breach and other alleged criminal offences involving the purchase and supply of lithovit fertilizer, is currently on admission at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.
Mr Tobi had told the court presided over by Justice Clement Honyenugah, a Supreme Court judge, sitting with additional responsibility as a high court judge, that lithovit liquid fertilizer, the subject of controversy has efficacy.
The witness said the fertilizer increased his yield significantly and put money in his pocket in the 2015/16 cocoa season.
When the case was called, the counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Kojo, told the court that the witness sent someone to him (counsel) with an envelope containing a hospital excuse duty.
“My lord I called him this morning after I opened and read the content of the envelope, and he said he is at the hospital and at the emergency ward. He informed me that the doctors are saying that they want to conduct further test on him and that they have assured him that after they conduct this test he will be released at the weekend.”
Mrs Akweley Gabo, who held brief for Mr Benson Nutsupkui, counsel for Mr Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, who is standing trial together with Dr Opuni, said “My Lord we have a copy of the excuse duty and we have no problem.”
However, both the judge and the prosecution, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, expressed surprise at the sudden turn of events.
Mrs Keelson said when she inquired from Mr Kujo the reason the excuse duty does not indicate the illness the witness was suffering from, Mr Kojo said it was confidential.
Justice Honyenugah said he was equally surprised at the turn of events because the witness looked very energetic two days ago.
The judge said the court had to adjourn for two weeks when the first defence witness testified and it was unfortunate that the second witness had to suffer the same fate.
In March 2018, the Attorney-General charged Dr Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state, and led to the distribution of sub-standard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD for distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by not allowing Agongo’s products to be tested and certified, as required by law.
The two accused have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA