Former COCOBOD Chief Executive, has dragged the Daily Guide newspaper to an Accra Fast Track High Court for libel over its last Monday publication that, he gambled with the board’s cash of GH¢60 million, by authorizing its subsidiaries to invest the amount into what looks like ponzi scheme.
Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, vehemently denies the claims by the newspaper, which was apparently culled from an investigative report engineered by the Joseph Boahene Aidoo-led management, and is asking the court to award him exemplary damages of GH¢2, 000,000.00 (Two million Ghana Cedis) for soiling his reputation, pay all cost, inclusive of counsel’s fees.
The bone specialist, is also asking the court to compel the newspaper to retract and apologize to him with the same prominence as the original publications of the 9th day of April, 2018, in four editions of the newspaper, as well as the front and back pages of the state-owned Daily Graphic Newspaper for 4 consecutive weeks.
Furthermore, the ex-COCOBOD boss, is praying the court to slap the newspaper with a perpetual injunction restraining the editor, Fortuni Alimi, William Yaw Owusu and its publishers; Western Publications Limited from further publishing or causing to be printed and distributed, the said defamatory words about him.
According to Dr. Opuni’s lawyers led by Samuel Cudjoe of Law Trust, the Daily Guide, reported on its front page of Monday, April 9, 2018 edition “under a screaming headline with his color photograph and boldly written in white letters under a dark background the defamatory saying “Opuni ‘Gambles with GH60M Cocoa Cash…”
The newspaper reported that “It is turning out that the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni allegedly gave authorization for subsidiaries of the Board to invest huge amounts of cocoa cash into what looks like unprofitable ventures”.
According to the newspaper owned by Freddy Blay, the acting National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), “One of the subsidiaries of COCOBOD, Cocoa Marketing Company Limited (CMC), whose board was chaired by Dr. Opuni, invested heavily in private financial institutions, as well as micro finance institutions in clear breach of its policy where almost GH¢60 million appears to have gone down the drain”.
The paper claimed that, a report of an Ad Hoc Committee set up by COCOBOD to investigate trade and investment irregularities that occurred at CMC Limited between 2014/ 2015 to 2015/ 2006 sighted by Daily Guide, made shocking revelations about how the previous Opuni-led administration wasted cocoa money on non- banking financial institutions, some of which never returned the investments to the state like a Ponzi scheme.
The non-financial institutions, who were beneficiaries of the CMS Limited’s ‘benevolence it said, included Eclipse Investment, Corporate Hill Investment, Express Savings & Loans, Ideal Finance, CDH Investment, Hodidi Microfinance and ASN Financial Services.
It mentioned that, “three bigwigs at CMC including its former MQ Bennett Akantoa, Dr. Edem Amegashie- Duvon (deputy MD) and John Odametey, deputy MD Finance, were put under investigation”.
But Dr. Opuni, denies any involvement in the claims and rebuffed attempt to paint him as an incompetent and a reckless person, who has caused COCOBOD to lose almost GH¢60 million Ghana Cedis.
He also denied breaching any policy of COCOBOD or acted inappropriately leading to the loss of COCOBOD’s money.
Dr. Opuni, who is a Consultant, Trauma and Reconstructive Surgeon, was once the head of the Accident and Emergency Department of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.
He had specialized as a Trauma and Reconstructive surgeon at the Trauma and Reconstructive Department of University of Ulm, Germany.
Before he became COCOBOD CEO, he headed the Food & Drugs Authority (FDA).