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Former COCOBOD CEO Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo have petitioned Chief Justice Anin Yeboah to intervene in the ongoing COCOBOD trial.

It is unclear why the duo, accused of causing financial loss to the state, have petitioned the Chief Justice but they were expected to open their defence today. (Friday, June 18).

After state prosecution announced that it had closed its case after calling seven witnesses, Opuni and Agongo’s team informed the court that it wishes to close its case — thus submission of no case.

The submission of no case application was shot down by the trial judge Clemence Honyenuga, on grounds that the state had been able to prove 24 of the charges against them and thus the need to open its defence.

Opuni and Agongo refused, in their second attempt, they appealed the decision by the judge to have them open their defence.

The review application was also dismissed.

The duo, who appeared to have something up their sleeves moved to the Court of Appeal to review the ruling of the trial judge.

The Court of Appeal also showed them the exit, which led to an attempt to remove the judge Clemence Honyenuga from the case.

The legal team led by Samuel Cudjoe and Nustifafa Nustupkui filed an application for recusal.

The team claimed Justice Honyenuga had mentioned that he wanted a speedy trial so he could get enough time to focus on his Supreme Court duties.

This statement by the Supreme Court judge, who is sitting with additional responsibilities as a High Court judge, according to the team meant he would not have time to listen to the accused persons defence.

But the trial judge dismissed the recusal application, adding that “it was taken in bad faith”.

With the turn of events, the Accra High Court adjourned the case to June 29, for the CJ’s response regarding the petition.

Lawyers of the accused persons according to the court have also filed a case at the Supreme Court seeking its advisory jurisdiction on the matter.

Background

In March 2018, the A-G charged the former CEO of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, for causing financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.

The two have been charged with 27 counts, including allegedly engaging in illegalities leading to the distribution of sub-standard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertilizer to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers. At the same time, Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on a GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail each.

Bribery Allegation

According to the facts of the case, Dr. Opuni on October 10, 2014 while he was the CEO of COCOBOD agreed to permit his office to be influenced by an amount of GH₵25,000.

The second accused person, Mr. Agongo, has also been accused of “endeavouring to influence the conduct of Stephen Kwabena Opuni in the performance of his duties as the CEO of COCOBOD by offering him an amount of GH₵25,000” on October 10, 2014.


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