Opuni Closes Defence Without Testifying

 February 14, 2024

Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, has closed his defence in the trial in which he is accused of causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state.

The accused, after calling 10 witnesses to testify for him, chose to close his defence without testifying in the trial himself.

He is not under obligation to testify himself and decided to exercise his right under Article 19(10) of the 1992 Constitution not to personally testify in the trial.

It states that, “No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.”

Dr. Opuni, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for 27 charges of causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretences, conspiracy to commit crime, abetment of crime, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the PPA Act.

Together, they are accused of causing a financial loss of over GH¢217 million to the state through the sale and purchase of the controversial Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser which the prosecution says was never tested.

They have been on trial before a High Court in Accra since March 2018, charged with 27 offences.

The prosecution, led by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, called seven witnesses to prove the charges against the accused persons who were extensively cross-examined by defence lawyers, some lasting about six months.

It closed its case on March 30, 2021 and Dr. Opuni opened his defence and went on to call 10 witnesses in his bid to raise a reasonable doubt to the prosecution’s case.

Samuel Cudjoe, lead counsel for Dr. Opuni, after the 10th defence witness was discharged, indicated that Dr. Opuni would not be calling anymore witnesses and had decided to close his defence.

He also indicated that Dr. Opuni would not be testifying personally as he was convinced that the 10 witnesses he called had made a case for him

“The first accused (Dr. Opuni) is satisfied with the evidence of his witnesses and, therefore, he will not mount the box to give evidence personally,” the lawyer told the court.

Some of the witnesses called by Dr. Opuni included farmers, a banker and some officials of COCOBOD and Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), some of whom were subpoenaed.

Some of them are Samuel Amponsah, then Acting Head of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED); Reginald Aduakwa, a banker who was assigned to Dr. Opuni at Ecobank; Peter Okyere Boateng, a Deputy Executive Director, CHED, in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation; Dr.  Gilbert Anin Kwarpong, who was the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in 2015/6 and 2016/17; and Atta Kwasi, a farmer from the Bono Region who used Lithovit fertiliser.

Agongo’s Defence

Dr. Opuni’s decision to close his defence opens the floor for Mr. Agongo to open his defence and call his witnesses.

It is not yet clear whether he himself would mount the witness box, but the court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, has made arrangements for his first five witnesses to testify.

His first witness is set to mount the witness box tomorrow.


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