Court dismisses motion to Stay proceedings in Opuni’s trial

Monday 18th March, 2019
Dr Stephen Opuni019

By Morkporkpor Anku, GNA

Accra, March 18, GNA – An Accra High Court hearing the trial involving Dr Stephen Opuni and one other on Monday dismissed a motion to stay proceeding pending an interlocutory appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The Court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge sitting as an additional High Court Judge said upon a perusal of the documents filed before “me and upon hearing the Defence and the prosecution, l must submit that l have never thought my ruling was made to deny the accused persons their rights to a submission of no case and deny accused their rights.”

“I must repeat that the court did not order Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to set up the committee to investigate the missing documents,” he added.

The Court said the grant of application to stay proceedings was a discretionary one and that a notice of appeal was not enough grounds to stay proceedings.

Justice Honyenugah said staying proceedings would only occasion further delays of the trial as the second prosecution witness has been in the box for almost five months now.

He said this was no special circumstances for which the proceedings should be stayed.

The motion was filed by Mr Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for Mr Seidu Agongo Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana, second accused, after the court had rejected the tendering of a document through the prosecution witness who had earlier denied any knowledge of it.

Mr Nutsukpui in moving the motion said his client has filed 27-paragraph affidavits and wished to rely on all the paragraphs.

He said the issue of contention was whether the testing authorities (CRIG) were aware of the product known or referred to as Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer or not.

He said the issue really was whether the substance or product Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer was ever known to CRIG as against the witness’ assertion that the product was unknown to CRIG as Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer.

Mr Nutsukpui said he was sorting to confront the witness with official documentary evidence from CRIG on the said product.

He said, it was on this premise that they appealed to the court for all those documents to be provided to them, especially the one letter coming from the Directors of CRIG, demanding that his client (Mr Agongo) paid money for a sensitization training for farmers and Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) Staff on the use of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer.

The Defence said it was this letter and its accompanying budget and invoice that the court ordered the directors of CRIG and CHED to provide and when those documents were produced, that particular letter was missing.

On why the court should grant them the motion, Mr Nutuskpui said, by the nature of the ruling, it deprives the accused persons of their rights to constitutional rule to fair trial, which would lead to miscarriage of justice.

Mrs Stella Ohene Appiah, Senior State Attorney said the prosecution opposed to the granting of the motion for stay, adding that “the court ruling was proper and based on law for which matter, the appeal filed by the defence will not succeed.”

She said the grant of stay pending appeal was a discretional right and it was not out of right just because an appeal has been filed.

The prosecution said the motion was a calculated attempt to waste the court’s time, adding that the court was not obliged to grant the motion.

“In case the appeal succeeds and going forward, the accused would not suffer any injustice,” she added.

On Monday, February 25, the court upheld an objection raised by the prosecution in the case involving Dr Stephen Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD and one other for documents to be tendered through its witness.

The documents sought to be tendered through the prosecution witness are the reports of the Committee and its attachment filed on the orders of the Court.

COCOBOD set up the Committee to investigate the circumstances that resulted in some pages missing from the documents filed in the case.

The presiding Judge, Justice Honyenugah, said upon hearing objection for and against tendering of the documents, he was of the view that the counsel for the accused persons should have applied for an order to compel the authors of the said document to appear in court and subject them to scrutiny.

Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail.

The Court adjourned the trial to Wednesday, March 27 for continuation.

GNA