The former CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, has, through his lawyers, filed a case of no submission in the ongoing trial in which he and businessman Seidu Agongo have been accused of causing financial loss of GH¢217,370,289.22 to the state.
Mr Opuni’s lawyers argued in their submission that the state, during the trial, failed to prove the accusations levelled against him beyond reasonable.
An earlier oral submission of same was rejected by Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting with additional responsibilities as a High Court judge, who ordered Mr Opuni’s lawyers to file their submission officially.
They did on 12 April 2021.
During one of the recent hearings on Monday, 22 March 2021, the investigator, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, told the high court that Dr Opuni’s salary, while in office, was “way above” the GHS25,000 deposited into his account by businessman Seidu Agongo.
Mr Mercer, who is with the Financial Forensics Unit (FFU) of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, had told the court a week earlier that Mr Agongo, the second accused person, admitted to having paid the amount to Dr Opuni, the first accused person, to be used as charity for the poor.
The seventh prosecution witness maintained his story in court during cross-examination and noted that the money was well within the earning capacity of Dr Opuni, whose salary at Cocobod, according to him, was heftier than the alleged GHS25,000 bribe.
“Now sir, you told the court that the reason for charging A1 (Dr Stephen Opuni) and A2 (Seidu Agongo) in respect of the GHS25,000 deposit made into A1’s account by A2 was the conflicting statements they gave when they were interrogated separately. Am I correct?” asked Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Agongo and the third accused entity, Agricult Company Limited.
“Yes, my Lord”, Mr Mercer answered.
“Now sir, as part of your investigations, did you find out how much A1 [Opuni] earned as a monthly salary at Cocobod?” to which he responded: “Yes, my Lord”.
“How much did he earn per month?” the investigator was asked.
“My Lord, as part of our investigations, we obtained the payslips of A1 from the time of assumption of office to the time he left office. And my Lord, I can produce it if U am asked to. I don’t have the exact figure in my head”, he told the court.
The counsel then wondered: “Sir, would you remember if that figure would be more or less than GHS25,000?”
The investigator said: “My Lord, it is way above GHS25,000”.
“Sir, it is entirely possible that the GHS25,000 is A1’s own money; that’s correct?” he was asked.
He answered: “My Lord, that is not so”.
Mr Mercer explained: “My Lord, I have explained in this court and produced evidence to support that and to tell the court that A1, in giving statement to the police, said he gave the money to A2 to be deposited into his account. A2, on the other hand, said he does not remember but what he did remember was that he paid GHS25,000 into A1’s Ecobank account to cater for the needy children”.
“Now sir, irrespective of whether or not you believed A1, the GHS25,000 was within his monthly earning capacity at Cocobod; that is correct?”
“Yes, my Lord”, Mr Mercer answered.
The case has been adjourned to 29 March 2021.
The accused persons are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act, in connection with the purchase and supply of Lithovit foliar fertiliser, which, according to the state, was done in contravention of several laws.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are each on a GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail.