The former Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, was identified as one who ordered the Ghana Police Service’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to take over an inquiry into the tenure of Dr. Stephen Opuni as Chief Executive of COCOBOD by the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO).
For the CID to step charge, the inquiry, which was almost completed by EOCO, had to be abandoned.
Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, who appeared in court as the 7th witness of the prosecution during the cross-examination of Dr. Opuni’s lawyer, Samuel Cudjoe, informed the court that EOCO had been cooperating with Dr. Stephen Opuni for around six months and reporting to them every week.
He suggested that all the players required for the inquiries, both in and out of COCOBOD’s jobs, were cooperating fairly.
But on July 7, 2017, the then Senior Minister requested the police CID to immediately curb anything an equally qualified state agency was doing and launch a fresh inquiry.
“Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer said the “petition” was written by the Senior Minister at a period when there was a substantive Minister of Finance monitoring COCOBOD’s operations. However, this monitoring duty was reassigned in 2020 to the Minister of Agriculture.
In a GhanaWeb-monitored article by Angelonline, counsel for the complainant was very interested and needed to know what jurisdiction Yaw Osafo-Maafo had in the case because at the time he was still not the Attorney-General.
Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, who is with the CID’s Financial Forensics Unit (FFU), clarified that Osafo-petition Maafo’s to the CID was focused on the fact that while he was at the helm of COCOBOD’s affairs, it was suggested that inquiries be carried out into the actions of the accused.
“Samuel Cudjoe, Dr Opuni’s counsel, then asked the witness: “I hope you realize that the transition finished in January 2017. Are not they? ”
The witness answered, “My Lord, I cannot be doubly certain of the exact date on which the transition team ended its work.” And therefore, since there was a conclusion that measures ought to be taken on 7 July, it was not uncommon for us to obtain the petition to prosecute this case.
Former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo face 27 allegations, including defrauding through false pretences, wilfully causing financial harm to the state, money trafficking, misconduct by a public officer and violation of the Public Procurement Act.
They also all pled not guilty to the allegations and are each on a self-recognition bond of GH 300,000.
Learn extracts from the cross-examination below:
Q: Chief Inspector Prempeh, you told this court that you got a petition on July 7th, 2017. Who was submitting the petition?
A: My God, the petition was signed by Hon Yaw Osafo-Maafo, the then Senior Minister.
Q: What was his role and under what authority did he apply to the police because you had a substantive minister who supervised COCOBOD?
A: My Lord, after the transfer, organization inquiries were undertaken and one of the sub-committees carrying out the inquiry suggested that, during his term as CEO of Ghana Cocobod, investigations could be carried out into the activities of A1. It is on this basis that this petition was signed by the senior minister.
Q: I think you are conscious that January 2017 was the conclusion of the transition. Are not they?
A: My Goodness, I cannot be doubly sure about the precise date on which the transfer team’s work was done. And therefore, since there was a conclusion that measures ought to be taken on July 7th, it was not uncommon for us to obtain a petition to prosecute this case.
Q: You know as a certainty that this very matter was investigated by EOCO and that before you took charge, they were well ahead in their inquiries. Are not they?
A: My Lord, it is going to depend on the case being taken over. My Lord, it is when you know whether it has progressed or not after checking the docket.
Q: So you have taken over the EOCO prosecution in this case?
A: That is, my Lord, quite real.
Q: You know the sector ministry to which COCOBOD reports, to your knowledge?
A: My God, it is now under the ministry of agronomy.
Q: Chief Inspector Prempeh, do not you think it is quite strange that a senior minister who has no COCOBOD supervision is going to ask you to take over EOCO investigations?
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, objected to the issue, but it was overruled after the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Supreme Court Justice, sitting as an additional judge of the High Court, heard Samuel Cudjoe’s take on the objection.
A: My Lord, I see nothing wrong with that.
Q: Have you talked to all of the EOCO prosecutors who carried out the original inquiries before you took over?
A: My Lord, indeed. My Lord, the team spoke with EOCO’s Prosper Akrasi and Paul Gyan. The prosecutors are these. Prosper Akrasi, my lord, offered his declaration to the police at the headquarters of the CID.
Q: What motivated the police to pick up another state agency’s investigation?
A: My Father, this is not the first instance that the Police CID has taken on, through the Director-General CID, an open inquiry into a sister state protection agency.
Q: Has the petition affected COCOBOD only?
A: My Lord, the petition was only sent to us by COCOBOD via the Director-General of CID Concerns.
The sitting was adjourned until Monday, 22 February 2021.