The case against former Cocobod CEO, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, charged with willfully causing financial loss to the state could not proceed as the judge expected.
The Accra High Court adjourned a case after the prosecution failed to produce a witness.
The Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, said the state did not bring the witness because she thought the Friday hearing would be put on hold.
“We have been served with notice this morning with a stay of proceedings that pending an interlocutory appeal which has been fixed for July 2, at the court of appeal.
“My Lord, prosecution didn’t bring its witness because we understand that when these happen, the sitting for the day does not usually continue,” she said to Justice Clemence Hornyenugah
The judge did not take kindly to this response.
“Is it for you to decide that since the motion has been filed, proceedings will not go on?,” he queried the principal state Attorney.
But the state attorney maintained that she was following a common practice. She said she was also informed that the court is aware of the stay of proceedings.
An unhappy Justice Hornyenugah said ‘l am not pleased with you this morning, you have to come prepared’.
Dr Opuni’s lawyer, Samuel Cudjoe, joined the state attorney and argued that the party had a right to apply for a stay of proceedings once they had filed the interlocutory appeal.
Still unhappy with the turn of developments, Justice Hornyenugah ruled;
“Upon hearing the principal state Attorney and counsel for the first accused, it is my considered opinion that the filing of the application for stay of proceedings does not operate as an automatic stay.
“The matter to go on is not something to go on execution, the matter as at now is for the case to proceed and not executed in any form.
“Consequently, l am dismissing the submission of both the principal state Attorney and the learned colleague,” Justice Hornyenugah directed.
The case has been adjourned to July 6, 2020.
In March 2018, the A-G charged the former CEO of Ghana Cocobod, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Seidu Agongo, who is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, for causing financial loss to the state.
The two have been charged with 27 counts, including allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.
The illegalities led to the distribution of sub-standard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertilizer to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.
The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on a GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail each.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, on March 16, the court dismissed a motion seeking the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah to recuse himself from continuing with the trial, alleging he made certain comments on a different forum.
On February 18, this year, Justice Honyenuga, who is also the Paramount Chief of Nyagbo Traditional Area, showered President Akufo-Addo with his sterling performance.
“We wish to congratulate you on the excellent manner in which you are governing this dear country of ours. It is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians will consider giving you another term, Torgbui Nyagasi [Justice Honyenuga] had said.
Lawyers for Dr Opuni, contended that statement by the judge even in his capacity as a traditional leader, was a clear indication of support for the president.
The motion was seeking the trial judge, who was a Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, to stop the trial and refer the matter to the Chief Justice for reassignment.
The court in its ruling dismissing the application said the allegations raised on his comments were non-judicial and do not touch on the instant case.
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