General News of Tuesday, 18 December 2018
The Deputy Director of Legal Affairs at Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Johanes Velpa, told the Accra High Court on Monday that documents related to the GHS271 million Opuni-Agongo case have gone missing while others have been “tampered with” or “misfiled.” Those documents, requested by the Counsel, are reportedly on accused persons from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
Mr Benson Nutsukpui, Counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult, requested for the documents, pointing out on Monday that the missing documents were “germane” to his cross-examination of the state’s witnesses in the case.
According to Mr Nutsukpui, the first document is an invoice attached to the letter of 20th November 2014, an evaluation report on Codapec/Hitec products submitted to COCOBOD per CRIG letter CRG27/118/4643 dated 31st August 2016. The other is a report on the analysis of two granular fertiliser samples in a rice sack submitted to the Chief Executive on the 24th of October 2016 by a letter with reference number CRG39/14Vol22/5577.
Mr Nutsukpui also prayed the court for an update on the effort to trace another letter dated October 21, 2014.
Dr Stephen Opuni, former CEO of COCOBOD, is standing trial together with businessman Seidu Agongo on various charges including causing financial loss to the state.
One of the grounds for the state’s case against Dr Opuni is that he received the 25,000 cedis from the businessman as a bribe in order to hand him a fertilizer supply contract.
Below is what transpired in court on Monday:
Mr Nutsukpui: My Lord, some of the documents are so germane for the determination of this matter. One is the invoice that has not been attached. Also attached to this document are two documents referred to at page five of the documents.
a) Evaluation Report on Codapec and Hitec product address to Cocoa Board per CRIG number 2711/6483 and dated 24th August 2016.
Report on two granular fertiliser samples in rice sacks submitted to the CEO on 23rd October 2016.
So, my Lord, we will be grateful if we can be assured on the effort of CRIG to get us those documents.
Prosecution: My Lord, the order was not directed at us but CRIG.
Judge: So, where is the legal representative of Cocoa Board?
Mr Johanes Velpa: My Lord I am here.
Judge: What is your position?
Johanes Velpa: My Lord I am Deputy Director of Legal Affairs.
Judge: So, what is your difficulty in filing the attachments l ordered?
Johanes Velpa: My Lord, we were finding it difficult to trace it from the various files but I have been able to find them now but I couldn’t file them. My Lord, I have shown it to the Defence Counsel.
Judge: So, the documents are with you now right?
Johanes Velpa: Yes, my Lord.
Judge: Then let all of us get to the chamber and sort it out.
Judge: We are breaking for 10 minutes.
Judge: Per the argument from the Defence Counsel and Prosecution, it is my ruling that the above-mentioned documents should be furnished to this court by the next adjourned day which is 19th December, however, there are difficulties with regard to letter dated 21st October 2016 which cannot be traced. At this stage, the Deputy Director, Legal of Cocobod, is to explain to this court the circumstances leading to the unavailability of the said documents.
Judge: Tell us your name too.
Johanes Velpa: My Lord, our explanations regarding our inability to produce the said document is that our efforts to get the said documents took us to the file that contains the letter but upon going through, we realised that from folio 45 to 80, which should contain the said letter, was not available.
So, it is either the files have been tampered with or maybe it was misfiled. My Lord, we have then set up a committee to investigate why the documents are unavailable.
Mr Nutsukpui: My Lord, we are grateful to you and CRIG for that and, therefore, we will give them all the time to produce the said tampered documents.
But my Lord, we want [him] to tell us about the erasing and tampering of the files and the removal of some letters as well.
Johanes Velpa: My Lord, we submit to what the first and second accused counsel are saying.
Mr Nutsukpui: My Lord, the said documents are so germane that without it, I cannot finish my cross-examination.
Judge: Listening to the arguments from Counsel for the first and second accused, I think it is fair to adjourn the proceedings to Wednesday, 19th December and also I ask the Deputy Director, Legal to do his best to furnish the court with the said document.
In March 2018, the Attorney General charged former COCOBOD CEO Dr Stephen Opuni and Mr Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, with 27 counts.
It is the contention of the AG that Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD CEO (November 2013 to January 2017), breached laid-down procedures in procurement and other laws that led the state to lose GHS271.3 million in the alleged fertiliser scandal and the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
Mr Agongo is also alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.
The two accused persons have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and have each been granted a GHS300,000.00 self-recognisance bail by the court.