BY MUNTALLA INUSAH
THE CRIMINAL Division of the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Clemence J Honyenuga, has fixed July 4 to commence the full trial of the former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Seidu Agongo, Director of Agricult, who are standing trial for wilfully causing financial loss to the state.
This was after the court had ordered the Attorney General’s Department to furnish the defence with all pre-trial documents in its possession that would be relied on for the trial days.
Dr Opuni and Agongo, relied on Article 19(2) (e) and (g) and asked the court to order the AG to provide them all documents including those it will not rely on in the course of the trial.
But, days after the Supreme Court had ruled that accused persons be furnished with all pre-trial documents, the High Court presided over by Justice Honyenuga said the apex court ruling needed no interpretation.
The court yesterday said this would enable the accused persons to prepare their defence.
Supreme Court ruling
The apex court last Tuesday ordered the Attorney-General, Ms Gloria Akuffo, to hand over all documents to former top officials of the National Communications Authority (NCA) and a businessman standing trial for causing financial loss to the state.
The seven member panel, chaired by Justice William Atuguba, also gave the AG the discretion to hold on to some documents on the basis of relevance and public interest. This discretion will, however, be subject to a review by the trial judge hearing the case or the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, in its decision read by Justice Sophia Adinyira on Thursday, June 7, 2018, stated that the current restrictions in Ghana’s laws impeded justice delivery and therefore, ordered that all documents be handed over to the suspects and their lawyers except where there was a justification not to.
Defence lawyers had argued Article 19 of the constitution allowed an accused person to be afforded all facilities to put up his defence (including the list of witnesses and all relevant documents to be used and as well as those prosecutors do not intend to rely on).
The lawyers maintained the A-G was constitutionally obligated to furnish all the suspects with all the documents – whether the state would use them or not – relating to the cases against their clients.
Mrs Akuffo argued she was prepared to hand over documents the state would be relying on but contested the demand for all documents, be they relevant or not. She said there was no law grounding their demand and that she was being magnanimous by offering to give them relevant documents.
Dissatisfied with the A-G’s position, the suspects and their lawyers proceeded to the Supreme Court for a Constitutional interpretation, forcing the lower court to suspend hearing into the criminal cases against the former government officials.
In all, he is seeking to access about 13 prosecution documents, including the contract for the procurement of fertilizers entered into by COCOBOD between 2008 and 2017.
Dr Opuni and the one other suspect are on self-recognizance bail in the sum of GH¢ 300,000 each.