General News of Thursday, 17 May 2018
Ms Jacqueline Avotri, the Counsel for the Economic and Organised Crime Office, (EOCO) has said the second freezing of the accounts of Dr Stephen Opuni, the former COCOBOD, Chief Executive standing trial was to keep the funds safe.
She said EOCO was just being careful to ensure that proceeds of crime were not dissipated before the trial would end.
Dr Opuni is before an Accra High court on 26 charges, including Causing Financial Loss to the State.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has been granted a GHC300, 000 bail.
Ms Avroti told the Court, presided over by Mrs Georgina Mensah-Datsa, that the first order to freeze the accounts was solely for investigative processes leading to the prosecution of the accused person.
Mr Samuel Cudjoe, the Counsel for Dr Opuni, who, on Tuesday, moved a motion to allow him access to his accounts accused EOCO of abuse of power in freezing the accounts.
After more than 13 months after his accounts were frozen, Dr Opuni secured a court order in April 2018 to allow him access to them, but EOCO did not oppose the application, which was granted.
However, EOCO within 24 hours sought to secure a second order from the Court to block the accounts again.
Mr Cudjoe argued that the purpose of freezing Dr Opuni’s accounts had been served because EOCO completed its investigations in July 2017.
He said it was, therefore, strange to find EOCO seeking to block his client access to the accounts again.
Ms Avotri, however, told the Court that investigation was a process and at the time the directive was issued, Dr Opuni was already standing trial, adding that the ascertain that EOCO deceived the Court was incorrect and that it did not deceive the Court in any way.
She said the function EOCO played in the recovery of proceeds of crime was not in doubt as the Court had confiscated a number of property to the State on the Application of the Executive Director of EOCO after investigations by a number of State agencies and after a successful prosecution.
“EOCO cannot initiate criminal proceedings without the authorisation from the Attorney General’s Department,” she added.
She said the Executive Director’s role was to facilitate and investigate trials and not to conduct trials, because the A-G did not have the powers of investigation, freezing of accounts, seizure or confiscation of assets.
She said the approach by the boss of EOCO did not amount to abuse of the Court Process, explaining that EOCO had not engaged in multiplicity of suits because currently there was only one confirmation order dated April 24, 2018, to freeze the accounts.
Ms Avotri said the funds in that account was less than the total amount involved in the charges he was standing trial for.
The Counsel thus asked the Court to reprimand the Counsel for Dr Opuni, for describing EOCO as a “monster”.
She said the court must condemn the remark by the Counsel.
“We take exception to the description of EOCO in the discharge of its lawful duty as a monster. We, therefore, pray the court to reprimand lawyers for Dr Opuni.
The Court has since adjourned the case for ruling on Monday, May 21.