The Accra High Court has ordered former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and businessman Seidu Agongo, to open their defence.
The court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, gave the order Friday, May 7, 2021 after he dismissed a submission of no case filed by lawyers for the accused persons, reports the state-owned Daily Graphic.
Dr Opuni and Agongo, CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, are on trial for allegedly engaging in illegalities in a series of fertiliser transactions, which the Attorney-General says caused a financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.
In dismissing the submission of no case, Justice Honyenuga held that the prosecution had been able to establish a prima facie case in 24 of the 27 charges against the two accused.
Justice Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court judge, subsequently ordered the accused persons to open their defence with regard to the 24 charges.
Dr Opuni has been ordered to mount his defence on May 17, 2021.
Dr. Opuni, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for 27 charges of causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretences, conspiracy to commit crime, abetment of crime, money lingering , corruption by public officer and contravention of the PPA Act.
Together, they are accused of causing a financial loss of over GH¢217 million to the state through the sale and purchase of the controversial Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, which according to the prosecution, was never tested.
Submissions of no case
Dr. Stephen K. Opuni and private businessman, Seidu Agongo, filed separate applications asking the court to acquit and discharge them in their ongoing trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state.
They are facing 27 counts including causing financial loss of over GH¢217 million to the state through the supply and purchase of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser for COCOBOD.
The accused persons in their respective submission of no case are arguing that the prosecution at the end of its case failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove any of the 27 charges levelled against them.
Dr. Opuni through his counsel, Samuel Codjoe, argued that, he has no case to answer on the “basis that no evidence has been led by the prosecution to establish any or all of the ingredients of the offences for which 1st accused is standing trial.”
He argued that, “the prosecution has failed to make out a sufficient case to warrant calling 1st accused to open his defence.”
For his part, Seidu Agongo and his Agricult Ghana Limited, the company that entered into the Lithovit transaction and for which reason it has been charged alongside the owner (Agongo), are arguing that, “while there is generally no evidence against the 2nd accused person (Seidu Agongo), what little evidence the prosecution purported to have offered against the 3rd accused person (Agricult Ghana Limited) on any of the charges had been very much discredited during cross-examination or otherwise so manifestly unreliable, rendering any such evidence of the prosecution unsafe so that this honourable court cannot reasonably or safely rely on same to convict the applicants herein in the absence of an explanation from them.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa who led prosecution, called seven witnesses to testify in the case.
All the witnesses were vigorously cross-examined by defence lawyers, some spanning about six months.
On March 29, 2021, the prosecution ended its case after Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, the investigator and the seven witness was cross-examined by the defence lawyers.
The court presided over by Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting with additional responsibilities as a High Court judge, invited them to mount defence.
Opposing to the accused persons submission of no case, the AG’s Department argued that, they have adduced sufficient evidence to compel former CEO of COCOBOD, Dr. Opuni, and Seidu Agongo, and his Agricult Ghana Limited, to open their respective defence.
It was the case of the AG that the state was able to prove all the elements in the 27 charges levelled against Dr. Opuni, Agongo and Agricult, who are standing trial for causing financial loss to the state.
The AG is therefore urging an Accra High Court hearing the case to dismiss the applications for submission of no case filed by the accused persons and order them to open their defence.
The prosecution, in responding to the submissions of no case filed by lawyers for the accused persons, said it was able to establish a prima facie case against all three accused persons through their seven (7) witnesses they called to testify at the trial.
The prosecution is contending that contrary to assertions made in the accused persons’ submissions of no case applications, the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were not in any way discredited under cross-examination, and their evidence remains credible and reliable.
Source: Daily Mail GH