A GH¢25,000 bribe allegedly paid by businessman, Seidu Agongo, to Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), became the focus of the trial of the two at the Accra High Court last Thursday.
The investigator, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, testified that Agongo, in his statement to the police, admitted giving the money to Dr Opuni to help him (Opuni) cater for the needy.
Chief Inspector Mercer, who is the seventh prosecution witness, was answering questions during cross examination by lawyer for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe.
Counsel wanted the witness to agree with him that Dr Opuni never received any GH¢25,000 from Agongo.
The witness, however, disagreed with counsel.
Dr Opuni was the CEO of the COCOBOD between November 2013 and January 2017, while Agongo is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemicals company.
The two were dragged to court by the Attorney-General (A-G) in March 2017 on 27 charges for allegedly engaging in illegalities in a series of fertiliser transactions, which the A-G says caused a financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to the COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.
The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.
The GH¢25,000 bribe allegedly paid by Agongo to Dr Opuni is part of the accusations levelled by the A-G against the two.
It is based on the bribery allegation that the A-G slapped Dr Opuni with corruption of a public officer, and Agongo with bribing of a public officer, as part of the 27 charges.
During cross examination, Mr Cudjoe sought to punch holes in the testimony of Detective Chief Inspector Mercer regarding the bribery allegation.
Excerpts of cross-examination
Mr Cudjoe: A1 (Opuni) in his statement on November 28, 2017 informed you that the GH¢25,000 that was paid into his account by A2 (Agongo) was his (Opuni’s) own money which he gave to A2 to pay into his account.
Chief Inspector Mercer: That is not so. A2 (Agongo) wrote in his statement that the GH¢25,000 that he paid into A1 (Opuni’s) Ecobank account on October 10, 2014, was money he (Agongo) gave A1 (Opuni) to support him take care of needy children.
Mr Cudjoe: He never said that. I put it to you that A2 (Agongo) never stated so, and the first explanation was that he could not readily remember what the GH¢25,000 was for.
Chief Inspector Mercer: My Lord, that is not so. Immediately after this statement that he did not remember, he added that ‘I gave the money to him to take care of needy children.’
Mr Cudjoe: In fact, in this statement, he stated categorically that “I cannot remember the exact purpose of the payment, but I vaguely recall paying him some money to cater for needy children he cares for”.
Chief Inspector Mercer: That is exactly what I said.
Mr Cudjoe: At the last adjourned date when you were asked when you interrogated A1 (Opuni) as to the statement of A2 (Agongo), you said he informed you that he did not have any NGO to cater for needy children.
Chief Inspector Mercer: That is so.
Hearing continues today at the court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court judge.