Counsel for former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Opuni have accused the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) of underhand tactics to frustrate their client from accessing his bank accounts since Febuary 2017.
“They have failed to show the account is tainted. EOCO has now not only become a monster but a Frankenstein,” his lawyer Samuel Cudjoe said at the Accra High Court Tuesday.
He said the second freezing of accounts of the accused amounts to an abuse of the court process.
Dr. Stephen Opuni is standing trial for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of 217 million cedis during his three-year work as CEO. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
This charge is among 26 other charges including bribery and money laundering. He faces a 25-year jail term if found guilty of the charge of bribery alone.
After more than 13 months of having his accounts frozen, the embattled CEO secured a court order in April 2018 to allow him access to the account.
EOCO did not oppose the application which was granted, but a relieved CEO relived the ordeal after EOCO went back to court within 24 hours to secure a second order to block his accounts.
Dr. Opuni is therefore back in court after suing EOCO on Labour Day for freezing his account for the second time in 14 months.
In court Tuesday, legal counsel for Dr. Opuni moved a motion to allow him access to his account.
He argued that the purpose of freezing his client’s accounts has been served because EOCO completed its investigations in July 2017.
“They don’t dispute that,” he said.
The lawyer said it was strange to find EOCO show up requesting the court to block the accounts again shortly after his client was granted access to his money.
Samuel Cudjoe continued that since EOCO did not challenge their request to defreeze his client’s account, the window is not open for them to do so after the order has been granted.
The lawyer explained that EOCO has written to Dr. Opuni asking for bank statements and other documents relating to the same account it had caused to be blocked in 2017.
The letter addressed to him in May 2018 is the same letter to him in 2017.
“Apart from changing the date, its a replica. Its legally unacceptable that having frozen an account and obtained a confirmatory order on the court, if they had any cause to keep the account frozen, they would have opposed that application “
Lawyer Codjoe further stated that monies which the former CEO is alleged to have caused the state to loss are not in the accounts EOCO is seeking to look into.
The Attorney-General’s charge sheet against Dr. Opuni notes that the money was paid to Seidu Agongo to supply fertilizer which Dr. Opuni has been accused of causing a loss.
For EOCO to use the A-G’s charge sheet to support their application for a court order to freeze his account is interesting, the lawyers observed.
“They are aware he hasn’t been charged with any offence which will require confiscation of his assets. It’s only in one instance that 25,000 cedis is mentioned as money Dr. Opuni received. We have denied that.”
But counsel for EOCO Jacqueline Avotri said they are opposed to the motion for defreezing. EOCO said she maintained acted within law.
She explained that investigation is a process, starts from gathering of documents, tracing and tracking of assets, seizure of property, among others.
EOCO, she stated, has been established to recover the proceeds of crime.
“We did not deceive the court as they want the court to believe. We indeed indicated that the freezing was pending investigations. We have also demonstrated that it has since concluded. Investigations may be concluded on an aspect of a case and not the entire case.”
She adds that their investigations revealed that Dr. Opuni’s account was credited with an amount of 25,000 deposited by Seidu Agongo on October 14, 2018 who is also standing trial.
“The charge sheet for that case exhibited by EOCO is enough grounds that the property is tainted.”