Allow Opuni to Access Accounts – Court Orders EOCO
The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision yesterday granted Dr. Stephen Opuni former Chief Executive of COCOBOD access to his frozen bank accounts.
The court presided over by Justice Jones Dotse held that only GH¢25,000 in the EcoBank account of the applicant should remain frozen.
In the view of the court, it is the GH¢25,000 that is allegedly tainted and that the entire accounts could not be frozen.
The court’s ruling has however released the account that had been frozen since last year, a move Dr. Opuni said has caused and continues to cause extreme hardships to him and his family.
An Accra High Court had earlier ordered EOCO to freeze the accounts, ruling it was the mandate of the Office to protect the funds alleged to be tainted.
Dissatisfied with the decision, lawyers for Dr. Opuni dragged EOCO to the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the High Court’s decision.
Earlier, Jacqueline Avotri, lawyer for the Economic Organized Crime Office (EOCO) argued that Dr. Opuni is still standing trial and Seidu Agongo who is a contractor of COCOBOD paid the money into Dr. Opuni’s account.
She stated that the court did not err in granting the freezing order.
But the five-member panel comprising Justices Dotse, Anthony Benin, Akoto Bamfo, Gabriel Pwamang and Yaw Apau wondered why the EOCO Lawyer feels the remaining funds are tainted.
Justice Dotse indicated that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty unless there is evidence showing the remaining funds are proceeds of crime.
The judge posited that in such a situation the court would be compelled to freeze it.
Justice Benin, said, EOCO has no right under the law to go beyond the amount specifically linked to the charges which is GH¢25,000.
Samuel Codjoe representing Dr. Opuni noted that the high judge exceeded her jurisdiction when she ruled for the accounts to be frozen.
He said EOCO said GH¢25,000 was a subject for investigation and hat there is no need for the entire accounts to be frozen.
The embattled ex-COCOBOD boss is before An Accra High Court for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH₵217,370,289.22.
Dr. Opuni is also in the dock with one Seidu Agongo, a businessman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricult Ghana Limited.
The duo is to answer 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The ex-COCOBOD boss has been accused of “abetting Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd to defraud COCOBOD the sum of GH₵43,120,000 between January and November 2014.
He is also alleged to have abetted the businessman to defraud the state the sum of GH₵ 75,289,314.72 between November 2014 and November 2015.
Dr. Opuni who is also the former CEO of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is facing an additional charge of procuring “the supply of a substance described as ‘Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser’ using public funds without satisfying the prescribed conditions for single-source procurement” in February 2015.
“Stephen Kwabena Opuni, in February 2014 in Accra in the Greater Accra Region influenced the procurement process by misrepresenting facts to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) in order to obtain unfair advantage in the award of contract to Agricult,” the Attorney-General charge sheet read.
The businessman, Seidu Agongo, on the other hand, is said to have between October 2015 and March 2016 with intent to defraud COCOBOD, obtained the consent of COCOBOD to part with the sum of GH₵98,935,974.50 by representing to COCOBOD that he would supply Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer from Germany for application by farmers on cocoa for the 2015/2016 cocoa season, a representation he knew to be false at the time of making it.
He is also alleged to have sold “misbranded” and “adulterated” fertilizer to COCOBOD.
Seidu Agongo has also been charged with money laundering – taking possession of the sum of GH₵75,289,314.72 while knowing it to be proceeds of crime.”
Both accused persons have denied all charges.
By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson