General News of Thursday, 23 May 2019
The state’s third prosecution witness in the case involving former Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) CEO, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, was thrown into a state of confusion when the lawyer for Dr Opuni, Mr Sam Codjoe, started his cross-examination on Wednesday, 22 May 2019.
In his evidence in chief, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah had mentioned that after he retired from COCOBOD in 2013, he did some work for some American and Dutch NGOs in terms of consultancy and facilitation.
But in court on Wednesday, he found it difficult to remember the American NGOs he said he worked with between 2014 and 2016. When pressed by the lawyer, he explained that he worked with Solidaridad which is a Dutch NGO and several American NGOs, which he said he could not remember.
Dissatisfied with the response, Mr Codjoe kept pushing until Dr Adu Ampomah started fumbling.
The judge had to intervene on several occasions to enable the recorders in court make sense of Dr Ampomah’s submissions.
Mr Codjoe put it to Dr Adu Ampomah that if, indeed, he worked for Dutch and American NGOs, he would definitely have known all their names.
In answering, Dr Adu Ampomah mentioned one Rainfall Alliance but when asked if that was an American or Dutch NGO, he said he could not readily tell.
The focus of the cross-examination then shifted to Dr Adu Ampomah’s knowledge of Dr Stephen Opuni.
It is recalled that in his witness statement, Dr Adu Ampomah said he first met Dr Opuni somewhere between 2009 and 2013 when he was the deputy chief executive of COCOBOD (A&QC).
Mr Codjoe, however, challenged that claim as he maintained that the first time Dr Adu Ampomah and Dr Stephen Opuni met was in 2016, at a wedding ceremony.
He added that Dr Adu Ampomah gave that evidence of meeting Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni only to create the impression that he had nothing against him and not necessarily because it was the truth.
Here are excerpts of the hearing:
Q. You’ve informed this court that you were working for some American and Dutch NGOs. Do you still maintain that?
A. Yes my lord.
Q. Can you please give us the names of the American and Dutch NGOs?
A. The Dutch NGO is Solidaridad.
Q. And what is the name of the American NGOs you were working with?
A. These American NGOs were linked to the US Department of Agriculture and they were helping local Ghanaian companies to help local farmers improve their livelihoods.
Q. Can you give me the names of the American NGOs?
A. The description is that these local companies would put up a proposal sourcing for funds. And when they find a funding agency, their proposal is referred to me to review their proposal and recommend, together with a team, for sponsorship. And one of such companies, which was being funded through this means is “Cocoa Abrab? Pa” and some licensed-buying companies.
Q. I take it that you don’t know the names of the American NGOs you were working for.
A. When I was making my statement, I said because they are several agencies, I wouldn’t know because I worked with so many of them.
Q. You want us to understand that with the Dutch NGO you know the name, that is Solidaridad but with the American NGOs, you cannot mention their names or you don’t know their names?
A. It is not so. When I said the NGOs, the NGOs I was talking about were mainly the Dutch ones and because the funds were coming from various sources, that is why I said NGOs from Dutch and America because some of the funds were coming from America.
Q. So, it is true, isn’t it that as you sit here, you cannot tell us a single name of your employers, i.e. the American NGOs.
A. As I said, there were the funding agencies and the NGOs that I was working with American, so, in my first statement that I was working with American NGOs and Dutch NGOs was bulking the financiers and the NGOs and calling them American and Dutch NGOs. That’s what I meant because it is a process. The financiers will channel their money through the NGOs.
Q. I am putting it to you that if, indeed, you worked for Dutch and American NGOs, you would definitely have known all their names.
A. What I am saying is that several of them, I have mentioned one and if you like I can mention more. One of them is Rainfall Alliance.
Q. Is it American or a Dutch NGO?
A. I can’t tell you off hand.
Q. I am putting it to you that it is never true that you ever had any meeting with Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni at COCOBOD.
A. I never said I had meetings with Dr Stephen Opuni. I said anytime you were attending meeting there, I used to go to greet him after the meeting, not at the meeting.
Q. I am further putting it to you that the first time you ever saw Dr Stephen Opuni and had any discussion and, or interaction with him was in 2016 at the wedding of Dr Oppong’s daughter.
A. No my lord. I first met him … I can’t give you a specific time but between 2009 and 2013 when I was deputy chief executive A&QC when he presented a request for funding of a project prepared by Food and Drugs Board, of which at that time he was the boss and the Ghana Standards Authority and Environmental Protection Agency to test for aflatoxin in cocoa when I met him in my boss’ office.
Q. In fact, FDA at the time of Dr Opuni was self-funding and never asked for any funding whatsoever from COCOBOD.
A. They did put in application.
Q. And, in fact, you gave this evidence of meeting Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni in court to create the impression that you were on good terms or had nothing against him.
A. No my lord. I quite remember that I once went to his office after a meeting at COCOBOD and met the then-chairman of COCOBOD in his office. And we even had a chat in front of his office.
Q. I believe you know the name of the then-chairman of COCOBOD. Can you mention his name?
A. Ohene Agyekum.
Q. I am putting it to you that you never had any meeting with Dr Ohene Agyekum and, or Dr Kwabena Opuni in the offices of COCOBOD.
A. My lord, I met them.