The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, who is standing trial for allegedly causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state, has once again failed to put his trial on hold.
An Accra High Court yesterday dismissed his application for stay of proceedings pending the determination of an interlocutory appeal at the Court of Appeal.
According to the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, the application did not raise any special circumstance for which the trial should be put on hold.
The court also held that counsel for Dr Opuni failed to use the appropriate means of addressing the change of a judge in the matter when necessary by petitioning the Chief Justice but rather chose to file an application asking him to recuse himself.
Dr Opuni’s appeal relates to the decision of the trial judge not to recuse himself on grounds of possible bias.
In March, the ex-COCOBOD boss, through his lawyer Samuel Codjoe, filed an application asking the judge to recuse himself from the trial for saying at a traditional programme (where he is paramount chief) that the current President had done well with the Free Senior High School programme which has bridged the education gap between the rich and the poor in the country.
The lawyer argued that the judge had openly campaigned for the President through his comments hence compromising his integrity to fairly hear the case before him which he said is political because of the interest, he claims, the current government has in it.
Mr Codjoe claimed that Dr Opuni’s trial had been elevated into a political context such that the political fortunes of the ruling government were linked to the case.
The application was opposed by the state represented by Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, who said the criminal matter before the court was based on ‘personal actions and conducts’ of Dr Opuni which, she said, were criminalized under existing laws of Ghana.
Justice Honyenuga dismissed the application, saying he was taken aback by the decision of Dr Opuni to politicize his trial.
According to him, the case before the court is purely based on the charges preferred against the accused and has nothing to with party politics as being alleged by the former CEO.
Moving the motion for stay of proceedings, Mr Codjoe argued that their exceptional ground for the stay of proceedings is premised on the fact that the judge should determine the issue as to whether he should sit in the matter.
He said they had raised issues of a constitutional nature namely a breach of the natural justice which requires that the judge should not be a judge in his own case.
The application was opposed by the state represented by Stella Ohene Appiah, a Principal State Attorney, who stated that the trial is not a political trial; rather, Dr Opuni is being tried on charges founded on the laws of Ghana.
She added that it is not proper for the accused person to merely allege before a court of law that he is facing a political trial without law and any real evidence.
Justice Honyenuga dismissed the application for lack of any special circumstance to warrant a stay and adjourned the matter to June 26, 2020.
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