Agongo heads to Appeals Court as High Court ‘rejects’ COCOBOD report
Mr Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for the embattled CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited Seidu Agongo, has filed a motion asking the High Court in Accra to suspend hearing into a trial on fertilizer deals involving his client.
The motion was necessitated by Agongo’s intention to file a writ at the Appeals Court seeking an order from the apex court to quash a decision by the High Court. The court had rejected a report filed by Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), a division of COCOBOD, which the defence counsel had wanted to tender through the second prosecution witness, Dr. Alfred Arthur, a scientist at the CRIG, during cross-examination on February 25.
The report was the outcome of a committee’s work, constituted by CRIG, to investigate the tampering and missing of certain documents under its custody, which the defence counsel said is germane in determining the substance of the ongoing trial as the report suggests the fertilizer in contention was liquid in nature.
The report was filed in by COCOBOD lawyers on behalf of CRIG although the committee could not find the missing document and could not also unraveled how it got missing. The missing document is a letter dated October 21, 2014 written by CRIG with reference number CRIG 39/14vol.19/6448, asking Agricult Ghana Limited to sponsor a training programme for farmers and extension officers on the use of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser.
The report however included an invoice covering the missing letter.
But when counsel for Agongo and Agricult – second and third accused respectively– tried to tender the report late February, the court upheld objection raised by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa rejecting the report being tendered in evidence through the witness.
However, when the High Court sat on Monday March 4, 2019, Benson Nutsukpui drew its attention to a writ filed at the superior court and a motion to stay proceedings at the High Court.
Though prosecution had argued that since she had not been served, hearing should go on for the motion to be served later, Nutsukpui insisted that he has filed the stay of proceedings on March 1 so the motion should be determined before the matter proceeds further.
Mr. Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge noted, “Since the DPP has not been served the stay of proceedings and interlocutory appeal and the fact that the court has taken notice of the said motion, it is thereby ordered that the DPP [as well as counsel for the 1st accused] be served with the said motion.”
The court therefore adjourned sitting to March 13 for the motion to stay proceedings pending the interlocutory appeal to be heard.
However, when the court sat on Wednesday, it was informed that the DPP has filed an affidavit in opposition to the motion to stay proceedings on March 8.
The counsel for the first accused, Samuel Cudjoe also noted that he filed an affidavit in support of the motion to stay proceedings on march 5.
But none of the affidavits was served on the counsel for the second and third accused. The judge who appeared equally surprised said he also “just saw a copy” and sent for the registrar of the court to explain his inability to serve the two documents but the registrar was not available.
As a result of the prevailing circumstances, the trial judge adjourned sitting to March 18.
Dr Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and Mr Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, are on trial for their alleged engagement in acts that incurred financial loss of GH¢271.3m to the state in a series of fertiliser deals.
They have been charged with 27 counts, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer.
The two have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognisance bail of GH¢300,000 each.