April 24, 2024

Our Sources is picking up disturbing reports from the corridors of the Judicial Service that efforts are underway to transfer the new judge, Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah on the Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Alhaji Seidu Agongo case in the coming days and replace him with another person.

Though names have been mentioned, it is not clear whether the new Chief Justice, Gertrude Araba Esaaba Torkornoo, who was sworn into office by President Nana Akufo-Addo as the 15th head of the Ghana’s judiciary, some 14 days ago, June 12, 2023 –  is aware of this controversial transfer or actively involved in it.

But The Source information from reliable courtroom sources is that, Justice Gyimah is getting ready to park out from Land Court 2 on the Ground Floor of the High Court Complex in Accra.

It comes at a time, when the parties are in the Court of Appeal battling a ruling of the new judge which the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has been unhappy with.

Interestingly, the Court of Appeal, has set July 3, 2023, to deliver its judgment on the Attorney General’s appeal against whether the trial of the former COCOBOD and the two others, should start afresh.

Justice Gyimah, had taken over the high-profile criminal case from the controversial Supreme Court judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, following his eventual retirement, insisting on restarting the case because it would be unfair for him to adopt a proceeding that was “saddled” with numerous allegations, including accusations of bias, against the then judge.

“It would be unfair for the court to ignore the allegations and adopt the previous proceedings as it is” adding, “In order for the court to have a firsthand information of the trial and the demeanor of witnesses, the court will start the trial ‘De Novo”, the new judge said April 4, 2023 after taking over from Justice Honyenuga.

Justice Gyimah’s tough stance, has led to tears from Mr Yeboah Dame and his team of prosecutors, including Deputy Attorney General, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, a Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, repeatedly telling the court at numerous appearances and many adjournments, that they are not getting their witnesses to restart the trial.

The case started in March 2018, the then Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo, 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 sub-standard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Justice Gyimah also pointed out that an accused person was by law required fairness and that presumption of innocence should not be overlooked by the court and subsequently ordered the parties to file their witnesses either before or on April 21, 2023.

The case was adjourned to April 25, 2023 for Case Management Conference.

The prosecution led by a Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, had on Thursday, March 30, 2023, moved a motion urging the court to adopt the previous proceedings to enable the trial to continue.

But, the prosecution’s request was opposed to by defence lawyers led by Samuel Cudjoe and Benson Nutsukpui, for (first and second accused respectively) who prayed the court to start the trial ‘De Novo’ (afresh).

That was after Justice Honyenuga, asked the High Court registrar to forward the case docket to the then Chief Justice, Justice Anni Yeboah to assign a new judge because he was due for retirement.

Dr Opuni is standing trial with Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agro-chemical company.

State prosecutors, have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of lithovit foliar fertiliser transactions.

It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser was substandard, and has accused Agongo of allegedly using fraudulent means to sell the fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.

The prosecution has further accused Dr Opuni of using his position as CEO of COCOBOD (November 2013 to January 2017) to facilitate the alleged acts of Agongo by allowing the lithovit liquid fertiliser not to be tested and certified as required by law.

Dr Opuni and Agongo, have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

The Court of Appeal Court which will deliver its judgement on July 3, 2023 is presided over by Justice Philip Bright Mensah.

Other panel members are; Justice Ernest Owusu-Dapaah and Justice Jennifer Dadzie.

The AG’s grounds of appeal are that the trial judge, Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, “misdirected himself” in the application of the principles regarding the adoption of evidence in a trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: The Herald

 

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