The Criminal High Court in Accra Monday adjourned the trial of the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, to June 13, 2018.
He is on trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state in a series of fertiliser deals.
The adjournment is to allow the court to rule on an application by the lawyers of Dr Opuni, who are demanding pre-trial disclosures of all documents the Attorney General intended to rely on for the trial.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, said since it did not have a certified copy of the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court on a similar application on June 7, 2018, “it would not give a ruling based on speculation.”
The court explained that though it had heard of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the media, particularly on radio and in newspapers, the registrar of the court was yet to furnish it with the SC judgement to guide its ruling on the next adjourned date.
At a previous sitting, lawyers for Dr Opuni filed a motion asking the Criminal High Court to order the Attorney General’s (A-G) Department to release documents that the A-G intended to use to prosecute their client.
The motion was premised on Article 19 Clause 2 (e) and (g) of the 1992 Constitution, which relates to fair trials.
Dr Opuni’s legal team is seeking access to about 30 documents, including all prosecution witness statements, witness statements of their client and the second accused person, Seidu Agongo, as well as all documents relating to COCOBOD fertiliser contracts between 2008 and March 2018.
They also want all letters written by their client to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) during his tenure as the CEO of the COCOBOD in relation to permission to sole-source contracts for all fertiliser and all letters written by the PPA in connection to Lithovit Follar Fertiliser (LFF).
Referral to SC
The court maintained that since the application was related to a constitutional interpretation of Article 19 Clause 2 (e) and (g) of the 1992 Constitution, it could only give its ruling after the Supreme Court had given its interpretation on the matter.
The court, therefore, declined to rule on the motion by Dr Opuni’s lawyers for the documents, saying any ruling on the issue would “undermine the integrity and authority of the Supreme Court”.
“For consistency and fairness to prevail, the ruling must be adjourned in order to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court. Indeed, a decision of the Supreme Court will be binding on all lower courts,” he said.
It referred to the National Communications Authority (NCA) case in which the lawyers of five accused persons argued that per Article 19 Clause 2 (e) and (g), their clients were entitled to all the prosecution documents in relation to the case.
SC unanimous ruling
On June 7, 2018, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, granted the persons charged with criminal offences access to prosecution documents in relation to their cases.
The seven-member panel declared that the accused persons, irrespective of the offences levelled against them, must be given prosecution documents to aid their defence.