Dr. Stephen Opuni
There was an unexpected turn of events in the trial of the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, as the defence lawyers clashed with the trial judge.
There was ‘heated’ argument between Samuel Codjoe, lawyer for Dr. Opuni; Benson Nutsukpui, lead counsel for Seidu Agongo and the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah, over the length of the cross-examination of the state’s second witness.
In the beginning of yesterday’s proceedings, the judge admonished Mr. Nutsukpui to speed up his cross-examination of the second prosecution witness to allow the state to call its next witness.
The prosecution, led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa, presented the witness box to give his evidence-in-chief about four months ago.
The second witness, Dr. Alfred Arthur, who is a soil scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG), entered the witness box on October 29, 2018 and is still under cross-examination.
This informed the judge’s decision to admonish the defence lawyer to speed up the cross-examination.
But this did not go down well with the defence lawyers, who suggested that the judge was trying to speed up proceedings.
Benson Nutsukpui, therefore, demanded that the judge’s statement be put on record, but the judge said it was just a piece of advice which must not be recorded.
Samuel Codjoe then stood up and accused the judge of doing same to him when he was cross-examining the witness.
The argument lasted for almost 20 minutes and the judge, who was not happy with Samuel Codjoe’s constant interjections of “I want to add my voice” told him to stop “showing off” in his court.
At a point, the judge also asked Mr. Codjoe not to “put words” in his mouth.
The argument finally subsided and Benson Nutsukpui continued with his cross-examination of the witness.
The former COCOBOD boss, who is a chieftain of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), has been dragged before court together with one Seidu Agongo, a businessman and CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited.
The two are facing a total of 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
Dr. Opuni is being accused of “abetting Mr. Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd to defraud COCOBOD the sum of GH¢43,120,000 between January 2014 and November 2014.
By Gibril Abdul Razak
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