Ghana

COCOBOD GH¢271m financial loss case: EOCO probe unconcluded when transferring docket to CID – Witness

It has emerged that the Economic and Organis­eOffice (EOCO) did not conclude investigations on whether or not lithovit is a fraudulent fertiliser before transferring docket to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.

This came to light during cross examination of Mr Paul Adjei­Gyan, Operations Directorate, EOCO by Mr Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Seidu Agongo, at the Accra High Court (Criminal Division).

Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the former Chief Executive of COCOBOD and Mr Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, a fertiliser manufacturing company are stand­ing trial for conspiracy to commit crime and procurement breaches in a fertiliser deal.

Mr Gyan has been subpoenaed by Mr Agongo, after Dr Opuni, the first accused has completed his evidence.

Excerpts of the cross-exam­ination:

Mr Nutsukpui: Please tell this court. Did EOCO, represented by its investigation team and direc­torate reach any conclusion on the allegations of litovit being a fraudulent fertiliser?

Witness: My lord as I told you earlier, our office did not complete the investigation and we were asked to send the docket to the CID office.

Mr Nutsukpui: As at the time you transferred the docket to the police did your office and its inves­tigative team reach any conclusion on the lithovit product?

Witness: My Lord, I will not call it conclusion but we had received two separate reports on lithovit.

Mr Nutsukpui: Did the office in line with the two reports received on lithovit reached any conclusion that lithovit was a fraudulent fertiliser?

Witness: My Lord, we did not get to that end.

Mr Nutsukpui: Sir, what do you mean by we did not get to that end?

Witness: What I simply mean is that we did not get to the end to determine whether the fertiliser was fraudulent fertiliser or not.

Mr Nutsukpui: Sir, now, do you know one Chief Inspector Prempeh?

Witness: My Lord, I have not met him in person but I was told he was the one who was asked to continue the investigation at the CID head office.

Mr Nutsukpui: Did your investigative team meet with Chief Inspector Prempeh?

Witness: My Lord, I did not meet him but Deputy Staff Officer (DSO) Akrasi met him.

Mr Nutsukpui: Did your investigative team meet with Chief Inspector Prempeh?

Witness: My Lord, I did not meet him but DSO Akrasi met him.

Mr Nutsukpui: And when DSO Akrasi met with Chief Inspector Prempeh did he report back to EOCO?

Witness: To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know sir.

The case has been adjourned to today.

Mr Gyan was a member of an investigative team put together by EOCO to work on lithovit and other agrochemicals which had been allegedly reported to have been fraudulently sold to COCO­BOD.

The case was assigned to the team on January 16, 2017.

The COCOBOD trial had dragged on for more than six years. Justice Clement Jackson Ho­nyenugah, a retired Supreme Court Judge, was the first trial judge until he went on retirement.

The case docket was later assigned to Justice Gyimah Boadi,

 who at the outset decided to conduct fresh trial because of what he considered as “suspicions and allegations” from the parties concerned.

Justice Boadi was subsequently transferred and the case was as­signed to Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

Before then, the Attor­ney-General and Minister of Justice, Godred Yeboah Dame, appealed the decision of Justice Boadi to conduct fresh trial and later in a ruling, a three-member panel of judges overturned the decision to start the trial afresh.

In March 2018, the Attor­ney-General charged Dr Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for al­legedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state, and led to the distribution of substandard fertilis­er to cocoa farmers.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substan­dard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farm­ers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by not allowing Agongo’s products to be tested and certified, as required by law.

The two accused have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are on GH¢300,000 bail each.

 BY MALIK SULLEMANA