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COCOBOD trial: CID investigator exposes himself under cross-examination

Claims by CID investigator, Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer that former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni, ordered scientists at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), to shorten the testing period for agrochemicals and spraying machines have been discredited by CID’s own documents.

The High Court in Accra, hearing the case involving Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, was informed by the investigator, by way of admission, that scientists the Financial Forensics Unit (FFU) of the CID interrogated did not write about receiving that directive in their various statements to the police.

Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh Mercer, the seventh prosecution witness, giving his evidence in chief led by Mrs Evelyn Keelson, Chief State Attorney, in Accra on Monday, January 11, 2021, was categorical that CID’s investigation discovered that Dr. Opuni gave the directive to senior scientists at a meeting in his office at Cocoa House in Accra in January 2014.

According to the witness, the reason assigned to the directive was that suppliers took undue advantage of the monopoly they enjoyed and charged high prices on their products.

But the investigator failed to produce evidence to support his claims when he was subjected to strict proof under cross-examination by counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe on Monday, February 15.

The investigator in the trial had earlier mentioned names of “lead scientists” he claimed told investigators that they were present when the directive for the shortening of the agrochemicals was given.

Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh Mercer, for instance, mentioned Dr Andrews Akrofi and Dr Francis Baah that they “all confirmed these directives”.

Interestingly, the court heard that, after they have been interrogated by the police CID, these scientists did not find it prudent to mention that claim in their written statements at the CID headquarters.

“Dr Baah in all his statements never mentioned this [directive to shorten testing of agrochemicals] to the Police and to EOCO,” lawyer Cudjoe pointed out to the witness.

The witness then told the court, “My Lord that is so, but My Lord, he did mention that during our interrogation. But my Lord it must also be put on record that after interrogation, statements given by witnesses, suspects and accused persons are not the same during interrogation and you cannot force them to write that.”

It was also put to Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh Mercer that Mr. Akrofi, one of the scientists he claimed told the CID he was privy to that directive, never mentioned that allegation in any of his written statements.

“My Lord, that is also not true, Dr. Akrofi when we interrogated him at CRIG and at our office at the CID headquarters made mention of this but did not put it in his statement,” the witness replied.

The investigator in the trial was also made to read a portion of the Director for Cocoa Pest and Disease Control (CODAPEC) program of COCOBOD, Dr. Gilbert Anim Kwapong’s statement to the CID which he vehemently denied being forced by anybody to compromise him in discharging his duties professionally.

“On the contrary, Chief Inspector Prempeh, Dr. Gilbert Anim Kwapong in his statement to the Police on the 17th of January, 2018, stated that he had never been coerced in the performance of his duty with respect to the testing of agrochemicals and spraying machines. Isn’t it?”

In his answer to this question, the investigator admitted, “That is so my Lord”.

He was further asked, “And that he has also not coerced any Scientist with respect to the duties of testing agrochemicals and testing machines”.

“Yes My Lord,” Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh Mercer conceded.

Meanwhile, the first prosecution witness, Dr. F. M. Amoah, Executive Director of CRIG, jwho also made a similar allegation, which has been denied by Dr. Opuni, recoiled under cross-examination, claiming that the directive was verbal. Even in his written statement to investigators on 26th April 2017, Mr. Amoah said he refused to follow any directives to shorten the testing period.

Read excerpts of Monday’s cross-examination below:

Q: Now, you mentioned that you had a discussion with Yaw Adu Ampomah that is PW3, and Mr William Mensah regarding the Lithovit fertilizer

A: Yes My Lord

Q: Did Yaw Adu Ampomah petition the Police

A: No My Lord. The petition that the team through Director-General CID received from Mr. Yaw Adu Ampomah was about the CMC not on Lithovit but there was a committee report that he chaired

Q: You stated in your evidence-in-chief that instead of Mr. Afrifa sending his report to the CTCM he sent it directly to Dr Amoah, PW1

A: Yes my Lord

Q: Was that proper.

A: My Lord, with the protocols at the time, that was not proper

Q: If they did not abide by the protocols that is PW1 Franklyn Amoah and Mr. Afrifa, was that wrongful.

A: My Lord, in my evidence in-chief, I did state that the protocols at CRIG at the time was that after the testing of an agrochemical or machine by the scientist, the scientist submit his final report to this committee CTCM and after the review and satisfying themselves that the test was proper then it will be forwarded to the Executive Director, CRIG. So My Lord, in answer to the question of counsel that was the protocol at the time, so if it was not followed then its wrong.

Q: So then both Mr Afrifa and PW1. Franklyn Amoah acted wrongful by not following the protocol

A: My Lord, as far as this investigation is concerned yes

Q: You also mentioned that PW1 informed you mat first accused instructed and or directed that he as head of CRIG and the Scientist should shorten the test period for testing of fertilizers Isn’t it

A: Yes My Lord

Q: But did he show you any written instruction or directives

A: No My Lord. My Lord, he was not the only one who said so. The lead Scientists who were present during this meeting including Dr Akrofi, Dr Baah, Dr Afrifa, Mr. Amoah all confirmed these directives

Q: Dr Baah in all his statements never mentioned this to the Police and to EOCO.

A: My Lord that is so but My Lord, he did mention that during our interrogation But My Lord it must also be put on record that after interrogation, statements given by witnesses, suspects and accused persons are not the same during interrogation and you cannot force them to write that.

Q: I am also putting it to you that in none of the statements of Mr. Akrofi did he ever mention this

A: My Lord. that is also not true Dr Akrofi when we interrogated him at CRIG and at our office at the CID headquarters made mention of this but did not put it in his statement.

Q: On the contrary, Chief Inspector Prempeh, Dr Gilbert Anim Kwapong in his statement to the Police on the 17th of January, 2018, stated that he had never been coerced in the performance of his duty with respect to the testing of agrochemicals and spraying machines. Isn’t it?

A: That is so My Lord

Q: Can you have a look at this document. What statement is this

A: My Lord. I know this document very well. This is the witness statement of Dr Gilbert Anim Kwapong

Q: And is dated the 17th of January 2018.

A: Yes My Lord that is so

Q: And in the last paragraph on page 3. My Lord, I want to tender it through him.

Document tendered not objected to and marked as Exhibit 58.

Q: And in fact if you can read page 3 the last part

A: Witness read. My Lord, I want to state something in connection to this Dr Gilbert John Anim Kwapong stated this when he was interrogated on issuing or signing certificates for renewal for Agricult Ghana Ltd in 2015 which certificate he signed was different from the one that was issued in 2014 for Lithovit Foliar fertilizer.

Q: What Dr Gilbert Anim Kwapong stated is that he had never been coerced by anybody at any time in the performance of his duties as Acting Executive or Substantive Director of CRIG. Isn’t it.

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: And that he has also not coerced any Scientist with respect to the duties of testing agrochemicals and testing machines

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: And Chief Inspector Prempeh, Amoah PW1 in his statement of 26th April 2017, he stated that he refused to follow any directives to shorten the directive period that is Exhibit 3. Are you aware of this?

A: My Lord, respectfully I cannot remember all the statements

Q: I am putting it to you that if any such directive was given (which is denied). Dr Amoah states that this directive was not followed

A: My Lord, this is a statement was obtained by officials from EOCO and not the CID Headquarters

Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Mr. Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, corruption by a public officer, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GHS300,000 self-recognizance bail each.

Sitting has been adjourned to February 22, 2021.

 

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