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September 29, 2023
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New judge hearing Opuni-Agongo case to be transferred – report

L-R: Evelyn Keelson, Godfred Dame, Yvonne Obuobisa
L-R: Evelyn Keelson, Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame, Yvonne Obuobisa (DPP)

Reports are rife about a clandestine move at the Judicial Service to transfer the new judge hearing the controversial trial of former COCOBOD boss and two others for proving to be a tough nut to crack by the government.

A report by The Herald newspaper suggests that efforts are underway to transfer the new judge, Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah in the coming days and replace him with another person.

The about six-year trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Alhaji Seidu Agongo was transferred to Land Court 2 presided over Justice Kwasi Gyimah in March, on the request of the Attorney General following the retirement of the former trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga of the Supreme Court.

Justice Kwasi Gyimah has sat on the case for only four times since March 30 and it his resolute position appears to be a bane of the government.

The judge on April 4 caused an upset to the Attorney General when he ordered that the case should be trialed de novo, that’s afresh.

 According to The Herald’s report, certain names have been put up as possible replacement of Justice K. Gyimah, it however says 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.

Citing information from reliable courtroom sources, the paper said, 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 Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has run to the Court of Appeal challenging ruling by the new judge and seeking to overturn the High Court’s decision to hear the case afresh.

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 the bold the decision to restart the high-profile criminal case afresh citing the fact that the case was riddled with numerous allegations, including accusations of bias, against the with controversial Supreme Court judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga.

“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 on different sittings that they are not getting their witnesses to restart the trial, and on each occasion asking the court to adjourn the matter for over a month.

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.

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.

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.

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