The prosecutors in the trial of Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and CEO of Agricult Company Limited, respectively, blocked the tendering in evidence, of some essential documents filed before the court by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) during the hearing on Wednesday 19 December 2018.
The court, on 17 December 2018 ordered CRIG to furnish it with some key documents in order to allow Mr Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for the second and third accused persons, to continue his cross-examination of the state’s second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur.
CRIG complied with the court order and produced the said documents including a letter from the institute to Agricult Limited concerning the “Renewal of CRIG certificate for pesticides, fertilisers and spraying machines for January-December 2015” dated 20 November 2014, and signed by the then-Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, Dr K. Opoku Ameyaw, along with its attached invoice.
However, an attempt to tender the letter and its attachment, which is an invoice from CRIG to Agricult for the renewal of the CRIG certificate for the 2014/15 season for Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, was blocked by the Director of Public Prosecution, Yvonne Obuobisa Atakora, who argued that the court cannot allow the tendering of the document through Dr Arthur.
According to her, the fact that Dr Arthur knows the declarant and the fact that he worked at CRIG, do not put him in a position to answer to all documents emanating from CRIG.
This, however, did not sit well with the Counsel for the 2nd and 3rd accused persons, Mr Nutsukpui, who argued that Dr Arthur should be made to answer questions on the document, since, the lawyer argued, the witness had stated to the court that CRIG had never described the product, which is at the centre of the trial, as Lithovit Liquid fertiliser.
In previous sittings, Dr Arthur had told the court that the product sample submitted for testing was in a powdery form, contrary to what has been indicated in official correspondences from CRIG to Agricult.
One of such communications, which was signed by Reverend Father Emmanuel O.K. Oddoye, in his capacity as Deputy Executive Director of CRIG in 2017, referred to the product as Lithovit Liquid fertiliser. But Dr Arthur put his boss’ integrity on the line when he told the court that Rev. Fr. E.O.K. Oddoye is an animal scientist and, therefore, may have misconstrued the word “Foliar” for liquid.
However, in the document with reference number CRIG4Vol.54/7014, dated 20 November 2014, which was blocked by the prosecution on 19 December 2018, the Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, Dr K. Opoku-Ameyaw had requested Agricult Limited to make a payment of six thousand four hundred and ninety-two cedis 50 pesewas, for the renewal of the CRIG certificate for Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser for January to December 2015.
Mr Nutsukpui, who later withdrew the said document, told the court that undoubtedly, the document was an official one, as it was filed before the court by CRIG in the morning of 19 December, a few hours before the sitting.
He added that the witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, had demonstrated enough knowledge of the happenings at CRIG to say that in 2014, 2015, and 2016, there was no re-evaluation of fertilisers for re-licensing, contrary to the dictates of the official letter and invoice from CRIG to Agricult in November 2014.
In Mr Nutsukpui’s estimation, the tendering of the document and its attachment will clearly establish that Dr Arthur has not been entirely truthful to the court, as, he argued, the witness has consistently denied knowledge of the said letter and invoice.
Presiding Judge, Justice C.Y. Hornyenuga, said having observed Dr Arthur deny any knowledge of the document throughout the entire cross-examination by Mr Nutsukpui, it would be unfair to tender a document through a witness, who has denied its existence.
Mr Nutsukpui withdrew the documents subsequently.
The case has been adjourned to 16 January 2019.