The Supreme Court has released the two bank accounts of the embattled former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni.
This was after it quashed the decision of an Accra High Court to grant the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) the authorization to freeze Dr. Opuni’s bank accounts with Ecobank Ghana Limited and Standard Chartered Bank Limited because they allegedly contained proceeds of crime.
The EOCO said the accounts were frozen because they were tainted.
The apex court’s decision follows an application in the form of a certiorari filed by lawyer for the former COCOBOD boss to quash the high court’s ruling in May 2018.
His lawyer, Samuel Codjoe, told the Supreme Court yesterday that the high court, presided over by Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, acted in excess of its powers and jurisdiction when it made the order to freeze the two bank accounts.
He said both EOCO and the judge did not give any proper grounds for the bank accounts to be frozen.
He said the prosecution stated during the trial that Dr. Opuni received a bribe of GH?25,000 from Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited.
He said apart from that amount of money, there is no other money which is allegedly tainted in the accounts.
The lawyer averred that EOCO has no basis to freeze the two accounts when there is nothing to show that the funds in those accounts are proceeds of crime.
Mr Codjoe averred that the trial judge committed a “grievous error” and refused to set aside the confirmatory order to freeze the accounts on the grounds that the total of charges Dr. Opuni is facing is more than the total funds in his bank accounts.
He, therefore, prayed the court to set aside the High Court’s ruling which ordered the two accounts to be frozen.
Opposing the application, lawyer for EOCO, Jacqueline Avotri, averred that the trial judge did not err in her judgement as she acted within her powers.
She argued that there is no error on the face of the document as claimed by Opuni’s lawyer, adding that the rule of natural justice has not been breached as claimed.
She told the court that the state was interested in assets recovery in case he (Dr. Opuni) is convicted.
The five-member panel presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, with Justices Vida Akoto Bamfoh, A.A. Benin, Yaw Apau and Gabriel Pwamang assisting, asked EOCO’s lawyer to provide grounds for which the two accounts should remain frozen.
Justice Pwamang stated that the processes led by EOCO do not show that apart from the GH?25,000 all the other funds in the accounts had been tainted.
EOCO ought to properly satisfy statutory procedures for which the accounts were frozen because the rule says in freezing an account you freeze the proceeds that are allegedly tainted and not the entire account, he said.
Justice Dotse, on his part, wondered what Seidu Agongo, who allegedly paid GH?25,000 into Dr. Opuni’s account, should have done since he was a contractor of COCOBOD at the time of making the deposit.
He said the Supreme Court cannot proceed on that trajectory, saying, “Nobody will be safe in this country if we allow the entire accounts to be frozen because a portion is said to be tainted.”
The court, after listening to both lawyers, quashed the decision of the High Court to freeze the bank accounts of Dr Opuni.
However, the GH¢25,000 in the Ecobank account, which is said to have been tainted, remains frozen.
An Accra High Court on April 23, 2018 ordered EOCO to unfreeze Dr. Opuni’s two bank accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank Limited and Ecobank Ghana Limited.