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Failure to resolve Opuni trial in six years simply unacceptable – AG

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Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, has voiced his displeasure with the six-year trial of the former CEO of COCOBOD, Stephen Opuni. The trial has been going on for quite some time.

It is unacceptable, in the opinion of the Attorney General, for the court and the judiciary to have failed to bring charges against the former CEO of COCOBOD. He also mentioned that lengthy prosecutions have an impact on the battle against corruption.

Dr. Opuni and a businessman named Mr. Agongo face a total of 27 charges, some of which include wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, and corruption by a public officer in violation of the Public Procurement Act. Other charges include false pretenses defrauding and wilfully causing financial loss to the state.

Both of them have entered not guilty pleas to the allegations against them, and their self-recognizance bail is set at GH300,000.

Godfred Dame told reporters in Accra that he was surprised that the investigation into Opuni’s case had taken so long. He said that investigations into more complicated cases are over faster.

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“During the course of the past six years, we have been witnesses to the High Court’s inability to reach a verdict in the Opuni trial. This cannot be tolerated in any way. It is inappropriate for such a case to remain pending in court for six years while other murder cases that are far more difficult are swiftly settled.

“This new development increases the unfairness and imbalance in our society, and it is apparent that the court needs to play its part in the eradication of corruption. Judges must also participate in this effort.”

Claims made by the state against Dr. Opuni

The state asserts that beginning in January 2014, Dr. Opuni worked in conjunction with Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd. to secure a fertilizer contract worth 43.1 million Ghana cedis (GH), despite the fact that all three of them “knew it to be false at the time of making” the contract that the company could supply the fertilizer from Germany.

The fertilizers, which were supposedly brought in from Germany, were bought for the 2013/2014 farming season.

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This similar technique was implemented in two other contracts that were sold over the three agricultural seasons that ranged from 2014 to 2016.

When Dr. Opuni had been in office for a year, the same supplier had already been awarded a comparable contract for the 2014–2015 agricultural season at a cost of GH 75.3 million. This contract was also awarded to the same supplier.

The amount of money required to fulfill the contract for the fertiliser for the following agricultural season, 2015–2016, increased to 98.9 million cedis.

This brings the total amount paid by COCOBOD over the course of three years to 2.17 billion cedis. These sums were paid by COCOBOD, which in 2016 required securing a loan of $1.8 billion to acquire cocoa beans from farmers.

The contractual agreement between Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd required the fertilizers to be purchased from Germany; however, the firm produced the goods locally despite this requirement.

In violation of the Plants and Fertilizer Act of 2010, the fertilizers were produced without having first been registered.

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After that, COCOBOD was provided with these fertilizers under the trade name Lithovit Foliar.

According to the allegations made by the state, Dr. Opuni was one of the three individuals who conspired to intentionally cause financial harm to the state.

The sole-source procurement method was used to award the contracts in 2014 and 2015, which had respective values of 43.1 million and 75.1 million cedis. However, the state asserts that the procedure for sole-sourcing was not carried out properly.

When the 2014 contract was given, there was no price bid, so it was almost like the supplier was given a blank check.

According to the allegations made by state prosecutors, the Chief Executive also took a bribe from Seidu Agongo in the amount of 25,000 cedis in October of 2014.

Later, he would try to make sure that Agricult Ghana got the contracts in an unfair way by lying to the Public Procurement Authority and giving them false information about the facts.

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