Defreeze Opuni accounts – Supreme Court to EOCO

Stephen Opuni is facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss to the State

The Supreme Court has ordered the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) to defreeze the bank accounts of former COCOBOD CEO Dr Stephen Opuni, who is standing trial for causing financial loss to the state, along with businessman Seidu Agongo.

The five-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, gave the order on Tuesday, 17 July 2018.

The bank accounts of the ex-COCOBOD CEO were unfrozen in April this year and later frozen per a court order.

The accounts involved are with Standard Chartered Bank and Ecobank.

EOCO embargoed the assets of Dr Opuni, including his bank accounts, in February 2017 at the start of a probe into his tenure as COCOBOD boss.

But Dr Opuni filed a suit at the court demanding that the accounts be released.

The court granted the request but overturned same the following day after an ex-parte motion was filed by EOCO.

Dr Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of GHS217million to the state, through three separate fertiliser supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.

The contracts were GHS43.1million (2013/2014 cocoa farming season), GHS75.3million (2014/2015 cocoa farming season) and GHS98.9million (2015/2016 cocoa farming season) totalling GHS217million through sole-sourcing, the state claimed, adding that procurement procedures for sole-sourcing were not followed.

The two have pleaded not guilty to all charges and were each granted a GHS300,000 self-recognisance bail and their passports taken by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service.

The substantive trial started on Monday, 16 July with the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Franklyn Amoah, the first prosecution witness, testifying that Dr Opuni ordered that the testing of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser be truncated six months after the testing started.

Dr Amoah explained in court that fertilisers are mostly tested for a minimum of two years and maximum of three years before they are released onto the market.

But during the testing of Lithovit Foliar, he said Dr Opuni ordered that the exercise be stopped six months into testing.

He told an Accra High court presided over by Justice Clemence J. Hornyenuga that Dr Opuni said he needed the fertiliser on the market as early as possible to prevent companies from monopolising the agrochemical market, hence the order to stop the testing.

Class 91.3FM’s Joshua Kodjo-Mawuli Mensah who was in court, reported that Dr Amoah further told the court that Dr Opuni used the same formula at the Food and Drugs Authority when he was the CEO and that resulted in the influx of a variety of medicines, especially painkillers on the market.

Dr Amoah also told the court that although powdery Lithovit was tested by CRIG, what was procured by COCOBOD and later released onto the market was the liquid version.

Dr Amoah also said Lithovit was found to enhance growth of cocoa seedling and dry matter yield during the six-month testing period.

The case was adjourned to 23 July 2018 for Dr Opuni’s lawyer, Sam Cudjoe, to continue with his cross examination.

The other adjourned dates are 8, 10 and 12 October 2018.