General News of Friday, 16 March 2018
The embattled former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has been accused of accepting a GHC25,000 ‘kickback’ to influence the performance of his official duties.
This is contained in a suit filed against the former COCOBOD boss, who was appointed by former President John Dramani Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration.
Dr Opuni has been sued together with one Seidu Agongo, a businessman and Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited, for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GHC217,370,289.22.
According to the suit, on October 10, 2014 while he was the CEO of COCOBOD, Dr. Opuni agreed to permit his conduct to be influenced by an amount of GHC25,000.
His counterpart, Seidu Agongo, has also been accused of “endeavouring to influence the conduct of Stephen Kwabena Opuni in the performance of his duties as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) by offering him an amount of twenty-five thousand Ghana Cedis (GHC25,000).”
Among the 27 charges leveled against them are defrauding by false pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They are expected to appear before an Accra high court on March 23, 2018
Another accusation against Dr. Opuni is the “supply of a substance described as ‘Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer’ using public funds without obtaining a price quotation.”
The two are also facing charges of conspiring to willfully cause financial loss to the state contrary to Sections 23 (1) and 179A (3) (a) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
The suit quotes Seidu Agongo and Agricult as “manufacturing fertilizer in commercial quantities without registration” as well as selling “misbranded” and “adulterated” fertilizer to the COCOBOD.
Dr. Opuni is being accused of “abetting Mr. Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd to defraud the COCOBOD the sum of GHC43,120,000” between January 2014 and November 2014.
He is also being accused of abetting the businessman to defraud the state the sum of GHC75,289,314.72 million between November 2014 and November 2015.
According to the suit, Mr Seidu Agongo, “between October 2015 and March 2016 in Accra in the Greater Accra Region with intent to defraud Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) obtained the consent of COCOBOD to part with the sum of GHC98,935,974.50 by representing to COCOBOD that you will supply Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer from Germany for application by farmers on cocoa for the 2015/2016 cocoa season, a representation which you knew to be false at the time of making it.”
The tenure of Dr Opuni as the CEO of the COCOBOD was characterized by countless allegations of financial malpractices.
The former COCOBOD boss is alleged to have conspired with some top officials of the sector to siphon cocoa cash.
He was at the centre of serious fraud investigations by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) over some scandals involving several millions of Ghana cedis during his tenure as the CEO.
In February 2017, the assets and bank accounts of Dr Opuni were frozen following investigations into some contracts he signed during his tenure and financial irregularities uncovered by the NPP government.
He was a subject of an investigation by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) at the time when his assets were frozen.
Dr Opuni was on January 12, 2017 asked to vacate office barely a week after the NPP government was inaugurated.