It has now been revealed that, the decision by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of Ghana Police to take over an almost-concluded EOCO investigation into Dr. Stephen Opuni's tenure as COCOBOD boss, was done at the instance of Yaw Osafo Maafo, the then Senior Minister, although COCOBOD, was under the Food and Agriculture Ministry led by Owusu Afriyie Akoto .
This was made known in court on Monday, February 15, 2021 by the 7th prosecution witness, Chief Inspector, Thomas Prempeh Mercer, under cross-examination by counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe.
Even though, EOCO had carried out extensive investigations for about six months with Dr. Opuni reporting to them every week until July 2017, speaking to all the necessary actors both in and out of the employment of COCOBOD, the investigator in the trial, Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer said, Mr. Osafo Maafo on July 7, 2017 petitioned the police CID to effectively curtail whatever was being done by an equally competent state agency, and start a new investigation.
Interestingly, the "petition" by the senior minister was written at a time when there was a substantive Minister of Finance with an oversight responsibility of activities at COCOBOD, until 2020 when that oversight was reassigned to the Agric Minister.
Counsel for the accused was therefore curious and wanted to know the locus of the then senior minister in the case when he was not also the Attorney General at the time.
But Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, who is with the Financial Forensics Unit (FFU) of the Criminal Investigations Department, said Mr Osafo Maafo's petition to the CID was based on the fact that it was recommended that investigation should be conducted into the activities of the accused when he was at the helm of affairs at COCOBOD.
"I believe you are aware that the transition ended in January, 2017. Isn't it?" lawyer Cudjoe asked the witness.
He replied, "My Lord, I cannot be double sure of the exact date that the transition team ended its work. My Lord, and so if there was a finding that action needs to be taken on the 7th July, that we received the petition to investigate this case, was not unusual."
Find excerpts of the cross examination below
Q: Chief Inspector Prempeh, you informed this court that on the 7th of July, 2017, you received a petition. Who sent the petition
A: My Lord, the petition was signed by then Senior Minister Hon Yaw Osafo Maafo
Q: What was his locus and by which authority did he petition the Police when you had a substantive minister who had oversight on Cocobod
A: My Lord, during the transition, investigation of agencies were conducted and on one of this sub committees which did the investigation recommended that investigation should be conducted into the activities of A1 during his tenure as the CEO of Ghana Cocobod. It is on this basis that the Senior Minister signed this petition.
Q: I believe you are aware that the transition ended in January, 2017. Isn't it
A: My Lord, I cannot be double sure of the exact date that the transition team ended its work. My Lord, and so if there was a finding that action needs to be taken on the 7th July, that we received the petition to investigate this case, was not unusual.
Q: You know as a fact that EOCO were investigating this very matter and that they were well advanced in their investigations before you took over. Isn't it.
A: My Lord, that will depend on taking over the case. My Lord, after reviewing the docket that is where you know whether it has advanced or not.
Q: So you took over the investigation of this case from EOCO.
A: My Lord, that is very true.
Q: To your knowledge do you know the sector Ministry which Cocobod reports to
A: My Lord, now it is under Ministry of Agric.
Q: Chief Inspector Prempeh, don't you find it very odd that the Senior Minister who has not got any oversight on Cocobod will petition that you take over investigations from EOCO.
The question was objected to by the Director of Public Prosecution, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, but it was overruled after trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Justice of the Supreme Court, sitting as additional high court judge, listened to Samuel Cudjoe's take on the objection.
A: My Lord, I don't see anything wrong with it.
Q: Did you speak to any of the EOCO investigators who conducted the initial investigations before you took over?
A: Yes my Lord. My Lord, the team spoke to Prosper Akrasi of EOCO and Paul Gyan, these are the investigators. My Lord, Prosper Akrasi gave his statement to the Police at the CID headquarters.
Q: What influenced the Police to take over the investigation from another State Agency?
A: My Lord, this is not the first time that the Police CID has taken over an ongoing investigation in a sister state security organisation through the Director-General CID.
Q: Did the petition concern only Cocobod?
A: My Lord that was so, the petition given to us through the Director-General of CID concerns only COCOBOD.
Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Mr. Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GHS300,000 self-recognisance bail each.
Sitting has been adjourned to February 22, 2021.