Opuni Trial Judge’s Dramatic Decision Heading For Appeals Court

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The strange decision by an Accra High Court to adjourn the perjury case brought against the Attorney General’s third witness in the trial of former COCOBOD boss Dr. Stephen Opuni and CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, Seidu Agongo, might soon be heading to the Court of Appeal.

The Herald has picked up signals that, Dr. Opuni’s lawyers led by Samuel Cudjoe, believe there is something legally wrong with the decision of the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge, who said “this application ought not to be heard now”.

Justice Honyenugah, had explained that it was “a wise precaution” to postpone some actions, noting that in a situation where the one standing trial in the substantive case is convicted, the perjury can be used to quash that decision upon appeal.

This was in spite of the fact that he allowed applications from both Dr. Opuni’s lawyers and also gotten Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, a former Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control to respond to the perjury application against him through his lawyers led by Stephen Asante Bekoe.

Justice Honyenugah, had at the previous sitting on January 9, 2020, dismissed an affidavit from the Attorney-General in defense of Dr. Adu-Ampomah.

This was after Mrs. Stella Ohene Appiah, a Principal State Attorney, said the AG, was only an interested party and not representing the respondent, adding that it was Adu-Ampomah, who wanted to align himself with the state’s affidavit.

Justice Honyenugah, had upheld an objection of from Lawyer Cudjoe and struck out the affidavit filed by the state in support of Dr. Adu-Ampomah.

“By court, upon hearing the learned counsel for the applicant and the principal state attorney, it is my candid opinion that the state cannot represent the respondent. That will be a clear breach of Article 88 and therefore, the affidavit in opposition filed by the state is struck out. The respondent being a layman will be given 14 days to get a lawyer of his choice,” the judge had ruled.

According to 3New.com, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, was to justify why he should not be imprisoned for committing perjury after Lawyer Cudjoe cited him for “deliberately lying” under oath.

Perjury is a quasi-criminal offence which the Cambridge dictionary defines as ‘the crime of telling lies in court when you have promised to tell the truth’.

The perjury case was then adjourned to January 28, 2020 to enable Adu-Ampomah find a lawyer to defend him, since the Attorney General is unable to do so, and when the case was later called on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, the respondent, came with four lawyers led by Stephen Asante Bekoe.

Barely had Lawyer Cudjoe, gotten on his feet to move the motion for the perjury, then the Judge interrupted him saying having read the affidavit, he wanted to give his impression about the application before the motion is moved.

After almost half an hour of writing, Justice Honyenugah ruled that “this application ought not to be heard now”.

He made reference to Section 152 (1) (b) of Act 30 which talks about summary procedure in perjury, but said that powers of the court “must be employed in exceptional circumstances” and therefore cited specific cases to buttress the fact that they should “be used sparingly”.

Relying on other cited authorities, the judge concurred with the position that summary proceeding should rather “follow and not precede” the giving of judgement in an ongoing case in which the perjury is involved stating it was “a wise precaution” to postpone some actions, adding in a situation where the one standing trial in the substantive case is convicted, the perjury can be used to quash that decision upon appeal.

Justice Honyenugah moreover pointed out that Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who has been cited for perjury is still under cross examination.

“To avoid prejudice and ensure fair play and practices, it is desirable that this motion should be adjourned to wait the full trial of this case, consequently…the motion is adjourned sine die,” he ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling appeared to have stunned many in court. A lawyer who sat through the brief proceedings was heard outside the courtroom murmuring in protest, intimating that if the ruling is made to stand it could result in miscarriage of justice, if an accused person is convicted based on lies presented by a witness.

Dr. Opuni in his affidavit in support of the motion drew the attention of the court to the fact that Dr. Adu-Ampomah satisfied all the tree requirements for one to be convicted for perjury: under oath, made or verified a statement upon the oath, and made or verified the statement knowing it to be false in a material particular or had reason to believe it to be true.

“That I have been advised by Counsel and verily believe same to be true that this Court under section 152 (1) (b) of the Criminal procedure Act, 1960 (Act 30) as amended by section 14 of Act 633 and under its inherent jurisdiction has the power to order Respondent to show cause why he should not be committed to Prison for perjury by virtue of the deliberate lies in his evidence in Chief given on the 14th day of May, 2019 together with the answers given under cross examination particulars of which are contained in paragraphs 5, 6, 9 and 10 supra.

“That in the circumstances, I pray that this court grants an order directed at Respondent to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for perjury and more specifically for concocting evidence so as to mislead the Court.”

Throughout his evidence-in-chief and whilst under cross examination, the witnessed consistently told the court that it was the practice at COCOBOD that procurements of fertilizers are done through advertisements in the dailies.

It however turned out in court that COCOBOD has never procured fertilizers through advertisement but rather by sole-sourcing them.

“I am putting it to you that in the entire life of COCOBOD, there has never been any occasion that the general public has been invited to bid for fertilizers by way of advertisement. It has never happened in any newspaper in Ghana,” lawyer Samuel Cudjoe asserted when he cross-examined the witness.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, a former deputy chief executive officer at COCOBOD in charge of agronomy and quality control, subsequently said “for fertilizers, yes my lord”, admitting that no advertisement was ever done.

But when the state reneged on its responsibility to cite Dr. Adu-Ampomah for perjury, counsel for the first accused decided to file a motion to that effect in November 2019.

Meanwhile, counsel for Dr. Opuni, has been able to produce not less than 18 contracts signed by the witness, Dr. Adu-Ampomah in his capacity as the then deputy CEO at COCOBOD through sole-sourcing. Some of these sole source contracts were as recent as 6th July 2017, 27th March 2018, and 19th April 2018.

 

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