The criminal high court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting with additional responsibility as a high court judge, has adjourned the case of the Republic versus Stephen Opuni, Seidu Agongo and one other to Monday 17 January 2022, because the computer system used in the court to document proceedings has crashed.
The court was expected to continue with the hearing of the evidence-in-chief by the first defence witness today, 10 January 2022.
Justice Honyenuga told the parties in the case that upon arrival in the chamber of the court, he was informed that the hard disk in the systems unit of the computer installed in the court had crashed and so it would be practically impossible to continue with proceedings.
Consequently, the court was obliged to adjourn for a week, in the hope that the Judicial Service technical team would be able to resolve the matter within the coming week.
Dr Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo, the managing director of Agricult Ghana Ltd, are standing trial for causing alleged financial loss to the state to the tune of GHC217 million.
The state submits that Opuni and Agongo contravened many laws in purchasing and supplying Lithovit fertiliser. The two men face 27 charges in total, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The two pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the court admitted them to self-recognisance bail of GHC300,000 at the beginning of the trial.
According to the facts of the case, Dr Opuni on 10 October 2014 – while he was chief executive officer of COCOBOD – agreed to permit his conduct to be influenced by an amount of GHC25,000.
His co-accused Seidu Agongo has also been accused of endeavouring to influence the conduct of Stephen Kwabena Opuni in performing his duties as the chief executive of COCOBOD by offering him an amount of GHC25,000 on 10 October 2014.
One of the main issues in dispute in the trial is the nature and form of the Lithovit fertiliser that was introduced to COCOBOD, what was tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) and what was later supplied to COCOBOD for onward distribution to farmers.
While witnesses for the prosecution have all insisted that the product that was tested and certified was powder in form, there are records pointing to the fact that COCOBOD, under Dr Opunis management, procured liquid Lithovit fertiliser. This liquid product was never tested by CRIG, the prosecution says.
In his evidence in chief, the investigator told the court that investigations by the FFU showed that in 2013, Agricult Ghana Ltd, acting through its CEO, introduced to COCOBOD a Lithovit foliar fertiliser, which was in powder form, together with its material safety data sheet (MSDS).
He said that on 15 May 2013 COCOBOD forwarded the fertiliser and its MSDS to CRIG for testing.