Lawyers of the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, have filed an application asking for the judge presiding over his trial, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, to recuse himself from the case.
The lawyers have also filed a repeat application for a stay of proceedings pending the determination of an appeal at the same court.
The two applications were filed at the High Court and Court of Appeal respectively.
In his application, Dr. Opuni hinged his request on comments made by the judge, which suggested that he was in a hurry to give a ruling on the case.
Dr. Opuni believes Justice Honyenuga’s comments imply that he will not be given ample time to put up a strong defence in court.
“That I state that the learned judge, having stated in open court that he was in hurry to hear the case, such that he refused to give me an additional four days to enable me adequately prepare for the case, it has become clear to me that I would not be given adequate time and facilities to prepare my defence as stipulated by Article 19(2) (e) and (g) of the 1992 constitution,” portions of Dr. Opuni’s application read.
The former COCOBOD CEO and Agricult Ghana Limited CEO, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial together with Agricult Ghana Limited for allegedly causing the state to lose over GHS 217 million in a cocoa fertilizer transaction.
Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on a ¢300,000 self-recognizance bail, each.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to the COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.
This is the second time lawyers of Opuni have filed an application asking the judge presiding over the case to step aside.