Lawyers for Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, have indicated that they will be calling eight (8) witnesses to testify on behalf of the ex-COCOBOD boss.
Dr. Opuni, together with a private businessman, Seidu Agongo and the businessman’s Agricult Ghana Limited, are standing trial for causing financial loss of over GH¢217 million to the state.
Dr. Opuni’s lead counsel, Samuel Codjoe, who gave the indication after the trial judge asked him the number of witnesses they are likely to call, also intimated that they intend to subpoena two out of the eight witnesses that they intend to bring.
Asked by the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting an additional High Court judge whether they will need the court’s assistance to get the witnesses, Mr. Codjoe replied that they will need the court’s assistance with regards to ‘one particular witness’ who he said has a health challenge.
He said they will need the court to take the witness’s evidence via a video link as a result of his ill health although he sometimes comes from Kumasi to Accra for check-up.
The prosecution led by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, indicated that the use of technology in adjudicating cases is common and the prosecution has relied on witnesses who live outside the jurisdiction in a number of cases.
She added that once the proper arrangement has been made, the testimony of the witness can be taken via a video link.
Justice Honyenuga then noted that the decision to have the intended health challenged witness’s evidence through a video link is in order, and held that his evidence would be taken after Dr. Opuni’s first witness, who is currently testifying, is done with his evidence.
He, therefore, ordered the court’s registrar to take note of the development and make the necessary arrangements with the IT Department of the Judicial Service to enable the witness to testify.
Meanwhile, Dr. Opuni’s first witness, Charles Tetteh Kwao Dodoo yesterday continued his evidence-in-chief where he was shown some correspondences between Ghana Cocoa Board and the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) regarding sole sourcing of fertilisers.
He was shown one letter which was sent in February 2014 and was asked who wrote the letter, and he answered that it was written by the Procurement Manager of COCOBOD.
“The distribution list of exhibit Q (Letter), indicated that the Procurement Manager is the last on the list and the list moves upward to the Director of Audit, Director of Finance and the three Deputy Chief Executives. The letter is responding to a PPA enquiry so the letter in its response referred to a meeting between the board of PPA and management of COCOBOD which took place in 2008. The result of the discussions would be and is with the procurement unit of COCOBOD,” Mr. Dodoo told the court.
He added that “and the letter referred to fertilisers, not a particular one that COCOBOD buys through sole sourcing. And so this letter would not be coming from the Chief Executive who was not at post in 2008. As I said earlier, the distribution list indicates the one originating the letter.”
He was then asked by Dr. Opuni’s lawyer why the letter was signed by the Chief Executive Officer and the witness said “all letters going out of COCOBOD have to be signed by the Chief Executive although he doesn’t write them.”
The first defence witness’ evidence-in-chief continues December 13.