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Court Grants CRIG Time To Submit Final Report; Stops Defence Questions On Ground Of Unfairness   
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The Accra High Court presiding over the trial of former Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) CEO, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman, Mr Seidu Agongo, today agreed to give the investigative committee at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), two weeks to submit a report on the missing documents that should have been tendered into evidence.

The court also ruled to stop the Defence in the trial from putting questions to the Prosecution’s witness, using another set of untendered documents, on the grounds that the Defence was being unfair to the Prosecution.

Presently, the main issue of contention between the two sides in the trial is whether a sample of fertilizer tested by CRIG in 2013 for use by cocoa farmers was liquid or powdery.

The Prosecution and its witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, the Acting Head of the Soil Science Division at CRIG, submitted to the court that the Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer tested by Dr Arthur in 2013 and subsequently recommended to COCOBOD was powdery in form.

The Defence, in its cross-examination of the Prosecution’s witness, claims the fertilizer in question was liquid in form and believes that the presently missing document is crucial to establishing that fact.

Addressing the court on when the investigative committee will be done with its work to find the documents, Mr Johannes Velba, the Deputy Director in charge of Legal Affairs at COCOBOD said the committee will soon complete its work and present its final report to the court in two weeks.

He added that the committee is trying to establish whether the document was misfiled or tampered with.

In his cross-examination of the Prosecution’s witness today, Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for Mr Seidu Agongo, referred to the 2017 handing over notes of Dr Gilbert Anim Kwapong, a former Executive Director CRIG, a copy of which had been filled at the court and said that the report asserts that all agrochemicals and machinery are tested before use.

In his response, Dr Alfred Arthur said that he had not read through that report, however, if it did indeed make that assertion, it will not be “wholly true” because testimony was given to the Adu-Ampomah committee to the effect that another fertilizer, Gwapa fertilizer, was not tested in the field before recommended for use.

The only bases for recommending Gwapa was that it has similar in characteristics as Asaase Wura fertilizer.

The Prosecution rose to object to further questioning of its witness on the bases of Dr Kwapong’s handing over notes. It argued that the Defences actions violate the rules on the presentation of evidence and that the Defence should first tender the documents into evidence before further questioning the witness.

The judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge, agreed with the Prosecution, despite the Defence’s counter-argument that they should be allowed to ask questions as a means of laying that foundation to tender the document into evidence,

Justice Honyenugah said the document ought to have been tendered and inspected before questions asked. As such, in his last act before adjourning hearing, he ruled to have the question and answer disallowed and “expunged from record on grounds of unfairness” to the Prosecution.

In March 2018, the Attorney General brought 27 charges against Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo, the majority shareholder of the defunct Heritage Bank, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

The AG deemed the two men to have breached laid-down procedures in procurement and other laws resulting in a loss of GHS271.3 million to the state, in the alleged fertilizer scandal and the distribution of substandard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.

The two deny any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and have each been granted a GHS300,000.00 self-recognisance bail by the court.

The court adjourned the case to Wednesday, 6th February 2019 for the continuation of the trial, on which day it expects that the committee would have finished and submitted its final report to the court.
Source: Peacefmonline.com/Ghana

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