Saturday, 20 April

COCOBOD trial: EOCO investigator exposes Police CID investigator Prempeh Mercer

Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni

An Accra High Court hearing the trial of former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, has been told that the docket the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), handed over to the Ghana Police Service to continue with investigations on lithovit foliar fertilizer, included the second test result from the Ghana Standards Authority which confirmed that lithovit is indeed a fertiliser.

The revelation is in sharp contrast with claims by the seventh prosecution witness, detective Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer of the police CID who told the court under cross examination on Monday, March 15, 2021 that EOCO failed to include that report.

Chief Inspector Prempeh was, therefore, confronted with the EOCO’s investigator’s statement which mentioned the fact that a second credible report was conducted on lithovit.

The statement was subsequently tendered through Chief Inspector Prempeh without objection from the prosecution, and was marked as Exhibit 75, only for it to be rejected suo muto by the then trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga in his chambers whilst ruling on the submission of no case, effectively putting it out of reach of the accused persons.

Meanwhile, the second test report in question, was subsequently tendered on 20th February, 2024 through Mr. Mr. Paul Agyei Gyang who led the EOCO’s investigating team as the Head of Organised Crime Unit, and marked as exhibit 133/A2 and A3. The report is the result of a directive by the then Executive Director of EOCO who instructed that a second report should be carried on lithovit in the presence of all the parties – supplier and complainant (COCOBOD), after a previous test results conducted without the knowledge of the supplier was contested. 

Interestingly, the CID investigator conveniently tendered in evidence the report which content was challenged, together with another “discredited” report from the University of Ghana, leaving the second report which returned a positive result on lithovit.

“Sir you see, I am putting it to you that the only reason that that 2nd test report of July 2017 from GSA is not part of the documentation before this court is that it defeats your narrative that you have built for this case,” Nutifafa Nutsukpui who was holding brief for Benson Nutsukpui told the witness in March 2021.

But the witness replied, “My Lord that is never so at all.”

The first test from the Ghana Standards Authority which result was received by EOCO on 5th May 2017 was carried out at the Cosmetics Drugs Forensic and Toxicology Department with experts raising eyebrow as to how a fertilizer would be tested at that department.

Seidu Agongo whose company, Agricult Ghana Limited, produces the lithovit fertilizer rejected the report when he was invited by EOCO, prompting the need for a second test to be carried out with the involvement of all interested parties. A sample for the test was therefore taken from the warehouse of COCOBOD at Spintex and submitted to GSA on 30th June 2017.

EOCO received the result for the second test on 2nd July 2017.

This time, the test was done at the Material Science Department of GSA that is known to be responsible for testing fertilizers.

The head of the Material Science Department of GSA, Mrs. Baah Mantey wrote in her statement to investigators that from the second scientific report, “the results revealed that that sample contained some amounts of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium and so the sample was identified as fertilizer”.

Also, Mr. Gyang who is now at the Operations Directorate of EOCO as a Senior Staff told the court on February 19, 2024 that “from the analysis from the Material Science Department, they were equipped to analyse the substance [fertilizer]”.

But when Chief Inspector was informed that Mr. Gyang had indicated the existence of the 2nd GSA report in his handing over statement, he answered:

“My Lord, that is not exactly so. My Lord, the police CID took over this investigation, the docket contained two scientific reports, and of the two investigators on the case one gave statement (that is Mr. Prosper Akrasi) at the CID headquarters to that effect. So My Lord, we don’t have any other report apart from the two that was on the docket that we took over from EOCO.”

The CID investigator also told the court that, “I want to further state that if that other report as counsel is talking about was given to the police there is no way we will not produce it. My Lord what we took over is what we have produced in court.”

But on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, Mr. Paul Agyei Gyang told the court that when EOCO was ordered to hand over the case to the police, “all relevant documents which we have gathered including test reports i.e the three tests reports received from the scientists” were added to the docket.

When the witness who was subpoenaed by counsel for the second and third accused persons was informed that Mr. Thomas Prempeh Mercer had told the court that the docket that the police received had only two tests reports, the ones that had only negative results, he responded, “my Lord I would be surprised”.

“I know you would be surprised, but I'm asking if EOCO did not give the police exhibit 133 (the second test result)”, Benson Nutsukpui counsel for Seidu Agongo asked Mr. Gyang.

“My Lord the report was inclusive,” the EOCO investigator insisted.

The witness further told the court that he was never contacted by either his superiors or the police in relation to the second test result from the Standards Authority, which Mr. Prempeh Mercer claimed was not added to the docket.

“Tell this court, what is your impression about this development in relation to exhibit 133 that I have taken you through this morning,” counsel asked the witness.

“My Lord as I have told this court, I'm only surprised but I can't explain,” he noted.

Dr. Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd are currently facing combined 24 charges: Abetment of crime, defrauding by false pretence, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, willfully causing financial loss to the state, manufacturing fertilizer without registration, selling misbranded fertilizer and selling adulterated fertilizer, Corruption by public officer. Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd were however acquitted on three counts of money laundering they were charged with when the case began.

The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.