COCOBOD financial loss case: State wants more time to file witness statements

The State is pray­ing for extension of time to file witness statements in the GH¢217 million financial loss case, involving Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CO­COBOD and others.

At Wednesday’s hearing at the High Court, Mr Alfred Tuah Ye­boah, a Deputy Attorney General, said some witnesses in the cases were unwilling to testify.

Mr Yeboah prayed the court presided over by Mr Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, to grant the State extension of time.

“We contacted witnesses, and they are unwilling to testify. One said he was in the witness box for two years and another said he was on retirement. We therefore need about 30 days,” the Deputy-Attor­ney General said.

Defence counsel for the former CEO of COCOBOD, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, did not oppose the prayer of the state. Mr Benson Nutsikpi, who represented Seidu Agongo, and his company, Agricult Limit­ed, did not also oppose the state’s prayer.

The court adjourned the case to June 7, 2023, for Case Manage­ment. Meanwhile, the state is said to have filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of the High Court to start the trial de novo (afresh).

In a notice of appeal, the Attor­ney General (AG) argued that the trial judge Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah misdirected himself in the application of the principles re­garding the adoption of evidence in a trial.

The AG held the view that the decision of the trial judge to start the trial afresh had occasioned a miscarriage of justice as it will hin­der an efficient trial of accused in the instant case.

The High Court had ruled to start the trial afresh because Justice Clemence Honyenugah, now retired Supreme Court, who had additional responsibility as High Court judge, was unable to exhaust the six months extension granted him by the Chief Justice to complete the trial.

The case was therefore, reas­signed to Justice Gyimah. The state wanted Justice Gyimah to adopt proceedings, but defence counsels objected and the court ruled to re-start the trial.

The Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Godfed Ye­boah Dame, has appealed against

 the decision by the Accra High Court to start afresh the trial of Dr Opuni together with Mr Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, in a fertiliser deal.

In a ruling on April 4, Justice Gyimah, who took over from Justice Honyenugah stated that he would conduct fresh proceedings into the case.

Justice Gyimah said he did not want to be saddled with the sus­picions and allegations associated with the case.

But, the AG said stated that the trial judge erred in forming that opinion because the Supreme Court had already dealt with the issue of allegations and suspi­cions.

He said: “The learned trial judge exercised his discretion wrongly in arriving at a conclusion that, he will be “saddled with the same suspicions and allegations of unfairness levelled against the current state of proceedings, which have already been dealt with by the Supreme Court.”

Dr Opuni and Seidu Agongo are standing trial on 27 counts of defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering and corruption by public officers in contravention of the Public Pro­curement Act.

They are accused of causing financial loss of over GH¢217 million. The accused have denied the charges and are on GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail each. – GNA

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