COCOBOD GH¢271.3m loss case: Case mgt conference on subpoenaed witnesses held in-camera

Case management conference in the on-going trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana COCOBOD, regarding five new witnesses subpoenaed to testify was held in-camera yesterday.

Case management conference is a meeting by parties in a case before or during trial where the number of witnesses to be called and documents parties intend to rely on are discussed and it is usually held in-camera.

A fortnight ago, the court, presided over by Justice Clement Honyenugah, a Supreme Court (SC) judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, issued the order for the five persons to appear, following a request by Mr Samuel Kujo, counsel for Dr Opini.

Those invited to give testimony were Reginald Aduakwa, banker, assigned to Dr Opuni at Ecobank, Samuel Amponsah, former Acting Head of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED), at the time COCOBOD procured lithovit fertiliser, Peter Okyere Boateng, Deputy Executive Director, CHED, Dr Gilbert Anin Kwapong, who was the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute in 2015/2016 and 2016/2017, during which the COCOBOD board renewed the certificate of lithovit fertiliser.

Concerning Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum, who resides in Kumasi, in the Ashanti region, and currently unhealthy, the court ordered that his evidence be given through video as requested by Mr Kujo.

Mr Kujo filed the motion for subpoena on the five persons upon the completion of cross-examination of Mr Charles Dodoo, one of the witnesses of Dr Opuni.

In granting the order of subpoena, Justice Honyenugah asked the counsel for the first accused to assist the registrar of the court to carry the order by providing necessary addresses.

In March 2018, the Attorney-General charged Dr Opuni and Agongo, Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, 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.

Mr Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward 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.

Justice Honyenugah was on July 28,  barred from hearing the criminal case by a 3-2 majority decision of the SC over a possible bias against accused.

But, three months after the ruling, 4-3 majority decision of SC upheld a review application filed by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, and asked Justice Honyenugah to continue proceedings.

Lawyers for Dr Opuni had accused the trial judge of bias for making pre-judicial comments and also excluding 18 documents (exhibits) tendered through a prosecution witness without objection.


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