Opuni &Agongo Trial Lands In Troubled Waters

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Documents upon documents, continue to pop up at the ongoing criminal trial of the former Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo which is making the Akufo-Addo government case a very herculean task.

One such document, dated July 2017, which reveals that even in the heat of investigations by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), CRIG, was testing and renewing its certification of the Lithovit fertilizer and identifying it,as liquid.

The said letter, was written and signed by Rev Father Oddorye Phd, a Deputy Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

It is presently before the court as a prove of Seidu Agongo and Agricult’s defence that Lithovit fertilizer, has always remained a liquid substance, certified and highly recommended for use in cocoa cultivation by CRIG.

The second document dated October 21, 2014, was authored by Dr.Gilbert AnimKwapong, then an Executive Director of CRIG.

It had asked Agricult to sponsor a training programme for cocoa farmers and Cocoa extensions workers on the use of “Lithovit liquid fertilizer”.

Seidu Agongo’s Agricult, paid CRIG for the training programme and was issued a receipt. This was after an invoice was issued the agro company.

In all the documents, Lithovit was identified as a liquid fertilizer and not a powdery substance as claimed by Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo.

There is yet another document dated November 2014 20, and authored by Dr.Kwabena Opoku Ameyaw, the then Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, had also demanded for a renewal of the certification of Lithovit in 2015.

Again, in that document and its attachments including receipts and invoices, the fertilizer was identified by CRGI as a liquid.

Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw was also the chairman of the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM) of CRIG when Lithovit was submitted to it for testing and approval in 2013.

CTCM was set up by Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah for ex-Executive Director of CRIG to be responsible for the testing and evaluation of all agro chemicals and machines presented to CRIG by COCOBOD.

It is presently unclear, if the prosecution, will call any Dr. Opoku Ameyaw and Rev Father Oddorye Phd to speak to their documents.

The Herald’s checks are that Dr. Opoku Ameyaw, a soil scientist and agronomist, has since gone on retirement, while Rev Father Oddorye Phd, is still at CRIG.

Meanwhile, the trial on Wednesday,took another interesting turn, when the state vehemently objected to the tendering of documents filed in court by its own witness.

CRIG, had on December 19, 2018, filed that documents at the court’s registrar, following a court order.

Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult, decided to cross examine Dr. Alfred Arthur, the second prosecution witness, using these same documents, but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, would not allow that.

Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, who is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, are on trial for allegedly engaging in a series of fertiliser deals.

In March 2018, the Attorney-General charged Dr. Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts, including willfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer. The accused persons have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges.

Meanwhile, what has been a major bone of contention since the case started is whether or not the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), which is the subject matter of the trial, was liquid or powdery in nature.
The documents which CRIG submitted to the Accra High Court on Wednesday, which counsel for the defendants consider critical to the case included handing-over notes, letters, field tests, invoices and receipts, which they said proved that at all material times the correspondence among Agricult, CRIG and COCOBOD showed that the LFF was liquid in nature.

Counsel for Agongo, Mr Nutsukpui, had wanted to lay a foundation before tendering the documents by getting the prosecution witness to identify portions of the documents, which the state prosecutor strenuously tried to scuttle.

Mrs. Obuobisa insisted that counsel for the defendants was cross examining the witness on documents not in evidence, but Mr. Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, who presided over the case did not side with her and asked the counsel to continue.

However, Mr Nutsukpui tendered the documents in evidence, but not after successfully getting the witness, Dr Arthur who works at the Soil Science Division of CRIG, and was one of the scientists who tested the LFF, to identify an invoice dated 19th November 2014 and a letter signed by Dr. Opoku Ameyaw dated 20th November, 2014 to Agricult Company for renewal of certificate on Litovit Liquid Fertilizer.

A similar document dated July 2017 from CRIG’s Accounts Department with attached Invoice (stated therein Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer) to Agricult Company which payment was made is already in evidence. It was signed on behalf of first prosecution witness Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah.

But immediately, Mr Nutsukpui tendered in the letter dated 20th November, 2014 which legal luminaries argue would technically exonerates Dr. Opuni as it dismisses the charges against him, Mrs. Obuobisa rose on her feet to object to it being tendered in evidence.

She told the court the documents cannot be tendered through the second prosecution witness, although she admitted the “document is coming from CRIG alright but the witness is not the author of the documents. The witness has not said he knows anything about this document. He has never said he has seen it before in his evidence in chief, he made no reference to this document… The fact that he knows the declarant and also works at CRIG does not make him the right person to answer questions on them.”

Mr Nutsukpui, brought to the attention of the court that the documents were brought to court through its orders and the “authenticity of the documents is also not in doubt”.

He argued that the witness has shown knowledge of the processes at CRIG and recalled him saying there was no re-evaluation at 2015 and 2016.

After both sides have advanced their augments, Justice Honyenuga, begun to read out his judgement. But midway through, Mr Nutsukpui withdrew the documents conceding to suggestion by Mrs. Obuobisa that the “document must be tendered at the appropriate time through the right witness who can testify to matters contained in the documents”.

Prosecution deferred her position on that to the judge who then allowed the documents to be withdrawn.

The case was adjourned to January 16, 21 and 25, 2019 respectively.

The two accused persons, have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and have each been granted a GHS300,000.00 self-recognisance bail by the court.

 

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