Less than 24 hours after an Accra High Court ordered the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to lift the ban on the bank accounts of former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the anti-graft body has once again frozen them.
Dr Opuni has been arraigned before court for causing financial loss to the state.
This follows some new developments following investigation into the bank accounts of the embattled former COCOBOD boss.
The accounts are alleged to contain some questionable funds.
The assets and bank accounts of the former COCOBOD boss were frozen by the anti-graft body in February 2017 as a result of investigation being conducted into some supposed fraudulent multi-million dollar contracts he purportedly signed during his tenure, and financial irregularities uncovered by the new administration of COCOBOD.
An Accra High Court on Monday, April 23, 2018, ordered EOCO to lift the ban following a motion filed by his lawyers.
By law, state authorities have one year to bring charges against an accused person after freezing his/her accounts.
EOCO, which exhausted the one-year period, did not object to Dr Opuni’s lawyers’ demand to have the accounts unfrozen.
But it appears Dr Opuni’s joy was short-lived, as EOCO made another move to deny him access to the accounts.
In an ex-parte motion filed by EOCO on Monday – the same day the order was given to defreeze the accounts – the anti-graft body prayed the court to grant it an order to freeze Dr Opuni’s bank accounts again as it conducts it investigations.
The court, presided over by Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, upon hearing the submissions of lawyers for EOCO, granted the request and froze Dr Opuni’s accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank Limited and Ecobank Ghana Limited.
This, according to the court, is to “prevent the respondent (Dr Opuni) from rendering the outcome of the trial nugatory and to prevent the funds in the stated accounts of respondent (Dr Opuni) from being dissipated.”
Dr Opuni was on January 12, 2017 asked to vacate office barely a week after the NPP government had been inaugurated.
The former CEO of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) was appointed by former President John Dramani Mahama on November 30, 2013 to head COCOBOD.
The former CEO of COCOBOD and the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, Seidu Agongo, have been dragged before an Accra High Court for allegedly contravening the Public Procurement Act, causing financial loss to the state and money laundering, among other charges.
They have denied all the allegations, pleading not guilty to all the charges proffered against them.
Dr Opuni and his supposed accomplice have since been granted GH¢300,000 each self-recognizance bail.
As part of the bail conditions, the two are to deposit their Ghanaian passports with the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.
They are also to write to the director of the CID any time they wish to travel out of the country.
The Attorney-General, Gloria Afua Akuffo, has indicated that Dr Stephen Opuni could face up to 25 years in jail if found guilty of receiving GH¢25,000 bribe from Seidu Agongo.
The trial has, however, been put on hold, as the court awaits the Supreme Court to interpret Article 19 Clause 2 E and G of the 1992 Constitution to determine whether he (Opuni) deserves to be given prosecution documents days ahead of the court proceedings.