Mr Samuel Cudjoe, the lead counsel for former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni, on Monday, 12 November 2018 punched holes into the evidence-in-chief of the state’s second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, in the ongoing GHS271 million COCOBOD saga, accusing him bluntly of peddling untruth before court, even under oath, Class91.3FM’s court correspondent Joshua Qodjo Mensah has reported.
During his cross-examination on Monday, Mr Cudjoe told the court that Dr Arthur only testified the way he did in a bid to attract an appointment as the substantive Head of the Soil Science Division at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
Dr Arthur has been acting in that capacity.
Mr Cudjoe started off by asking Dr Arthur if he was still the acting head of the Soil Science Division of CRIG, as he had previously told the court. Dr Arthur said he was no longer serving in that capacity.
When asked since when, Dr Arthur told the court he ceased being the acting head as of 2 November 2018, which was the last adjourned date of the hearing. He testified on that day as well.
Mr Cudjoe then asked Dr Arthur if he knew he was no longer the acting head when he appeared before the court on 2 November, but he insisted he had no clue at the time.
It was at this point that Mr Cudjoe put it to Dr Arthur bluntly that he knew he was no longer the acting head but deliberately ignored that fact in line with his agendum of being economical with the truth.
But Dr Arthur said that assertion was incorrect.
So, Mr Cudjoe asked Dr Arthur if he was given a letter indicating his appointment as acting head, but Dr Arthur responded that his case was an exception, as he was told to act in place of Mr Akrofi, who had proceeded on retirement.
Below are excerpts of the cross-examination:
Mr Cudjoe: At the last adjourned date (November 2, 2018) when you gave your evidence-in-chief, you knew you were no more the acting Head?
Dr Arthur: No my Lord, I never knew at the last adjourned date.
Mr Cudjoe: I am putting it to you that you knew you were not the acting Head and you are being economical with the truth.
Dr Arthur: My Lord, I did not know that.
Mr Cudjoe then asked the witness if he was given an appointment letter when he was appointed as the acting Head, to which Dr Arthur replied in the negative.
Counsel submitted that in CRIG, all appointments, including those in acting capacities, were communicated to the appointees in writing.
But Dr Arthur replied that it was not so in all cases and that in his case, he was asked to act as the Head when the substantive Head, Mr A.A Afrifa, went on retirement.
Mr Cudjoe then accused the witness of testifying against his client with the sole aim of getting his appointment as the acting Head confirmed.
“That is not correct,’’ Dr Arthur responded.
It is recalled that in his witness statement, Dr Arthur stated that his boss at the time, Mr A. A. Afrifa, called him while on a trek in the Western Region to furnish him with a report on the testing of Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser, the agrochemical which is at the heart of the court case, on cocoa seedlings.
In court on Monday, however, Mr Cudjoe challenged that claim as he said Dr Arthur never mentioned anything about receiving a call from his boss to present the report in all his numerous statements to the police.
Dr Arthur, in response, said on Jan 12, 2018, at CRIG, one of the investigators from the Criminal Investigations Department, Nana Oppong, asked about how the report was given to Mr A. A. Afrifa. He said he explained everything in the over 6-hour interrogation, after which he was asked to write his statement.
Dr Arthur continued that upon completion of his statement, he was asked if he had written down all that transpired; and when he wanted to make changes to the statement, the leader of the investigators, ASP Lodonu, denied him that opportunity, hence the reason for the omission of the call from Mr A. A. Afrifa in his police statements.
Me Cudjoe then quizzed Dr Arthur about why in all his eight statements to the police, he never mentioned that Dr Opuni ever demanded any report from Mr Afrifa.
To this, Dr Arthur said he was not asked any question that demanded that answer.
Then Mr Cudjoe argued that if indeed, Dr Opuni had made a request for the report as Dr Arthur claimed Mr Afrifa told him, he would have, at least, mentioned this important fact at the earliest opportunity, more especially when Dr Stephen Opuni was no more the CEO of COCOBOD.
The case has been adjourned to Wednesday, 14 November 2018.
In March 2018, the Attorney-General (A-G) charged Dr Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, with 27 counts.
It is the contention of the A-G 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.
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.
They are currently on bail in the sum of GHS300,000 each.