April 24, 2024

It has emerged in court that a test result conducted on lithovit foliar fertiliser by the Ghana Standards Authority in 2017 produced a positive result, confirming that the product is a fertiliser.

A senior investigator at the EOCO, Mr. Paul Agyei Gyang, made the above revelation at the High Court on Monday, February 19, 2024, detailing how a previous report by the Authority, conducted by the wrong department on the same product, and tendered in evidence by the prosecution, had a different result.

Mr. Agyei Gyan, who was the Head of the Organised Crime Unit of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), when the anti-graft agency investigated COCOBOD’s procurement of lithovit foliar fertiliser between 2014 and 2016, was giving his evidence in chief as a subpoenaed witness in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni, and businessman Seidu Agongo.

He recalled that in 2017, the then Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness, brought samples of lithovit to EOCO for testing.

EOCO, he said, sent a sample to the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana and another to the Ghana Standards Authority for testing.

“My Lord, the purpose was to establish through the experts whether or not the chemical lithovit was fertiliser,” and “allegedly reported to have been fraudulently sold to COCOBOD,” the lead investigator, who is now at the Operations Directorate of EOCO as a senior staff member, told the court presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

In May 2017, EOCO received the first report from the Ghana Standard Authority; he noted, “On the surface of the report, without making reference to the chemical compositions that were on it, to the ordinary eye, what we saw was that the chemical which was submitted to the Ghana Standard Authority lacked the ingredients to make it qualify as fertiliser.”

According to Mr. Agyei Gyan, when the Executive Director of EOCO had gone through the report, “he directed that the accused, Seidu Agongo, by then he was a suspect, be charged with the appropriate offence immediately.”

The witness recalled that Mr. Agongo was invited by EOCO and in the company of his lawyer, where he objected to the test result shown to him in the presence of the Executive Director, noting that Mr. Agongo was not given prior notice about the whole process.

“He objected that the chemical we tested probably might not be part of the product he supplied to COCOBOD,” he said.

He was, therefore, asked to come back later to enable EOCO to further “deliberation about the test result” with Dr. Adu-Ampomah, Mr. Agyei Gyang said.

Mr. Agongo’s protest paid off as EOCO directed that a second test be conducted on lithovit foliar fertiliser at the Ghana Standards Authority. This time, all parties, including Seidu Agongo and COCOBOD, were involved in the selection of the sample and testing.

The then Head of Organised Crime Unit at EOCO told the court that as the parties agreed, they met at one of the warehouses of COCOBOD at Spintex, where two security men from COCOBOD had been given instructions to provide the team with a sample of lithovit.

“My Lord, the security officers on behalf of COCOBOD gave samples whose seal had been broken to the investigator,” the witness said.

Asked if Mr. Agongo reacted, he replied, “Yes, my Lord, according to the investigator, the second accused initially objected to the bottle because the seal had been broken, but seeing his label on it, he said the label was his, but cannot guarantee what was inside.”

The sample was sent to the Ghana Standards Authority for a second test on June 30, 2017.

According to the witness, EOCO received the second test result on July 2, 2017, addressed to the executive director.

“What is your recollection of the second test from the Ghana Standards Authority,” counsel for Seidu Agongo, Benson Nutsukpui, asked the witness.

“From the face of it, the report said it was fertiliser,” Mr. Agyei Gyan confirmed.

“You mean the second report from Standards Authority, which was picked by all parties, says it was a fertiliser,” counsel further asked, to which the witness answered, “Yes, my Lord”.

“Even with the seal broken, the content was fertiliser,” Mr. Nutsukpui wondered, and Mr. Agyei Gyang reiterated, “Yes, my Lord, according to the report”.

Though the prosecution claimed it had a copy of the second test result, interestingly, it was not tendered in evidence.

It turned out in court that the first test result, which returned a negative result for lithovit, was actually conducted at the Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department for analysis, which, according to EOCO’s finding, was not equipped to analyse fertiliser.

The witness was, therefore, asked if he had ever heard of the name Material Science Department of the Ghana Standards Authority.

This was his response: “Yes, my Lord, if I may throw some light on the results of the three tests. My Lord, after receiving the test results from Ghana Standards Authority, the team met with the executive director and his deputy and having seen the changes in the results, my Lord, we invited the two scientists who worked on the substance.

“The first substance, the one that went first, which was addressed to the chief executive of Ghana Standards Authority, was referred to the Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department for analysis. And then the second one which was also addressed to the chief executive, was referred to the Material Science Department for analysis.

“EOCO addressed the two letters to the chief executive of Ghana Standards Authority, but one ended at the Material Science Department and the other Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department for analysis. So we invited the heads of the two departments together with the analysts who did the analyses, and my Lord, from their analyses, both departments were looking for different chemical components.”

The witness was therefore asked if the investigative team found out which of the two departments was equipped to analyse fertiliser: the Material Science Department on the one hand and the Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department on the other hand.

“My Lord, from the analysis from the Material Science Department, they were equipped to analyse the substance,” Mr. Paul Agyei Gyang, who was in charge of the Organised Crime Unit of EOCO, told the court.

Meanwhile, the court has directed the witness to produce a copy of the second test result from the Ghana Standards Authority, which said lithovit is fertiliser.

The witness also contested a copy of the test result from the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana, which was tendered in evidence by the prosecution and purported to be what was sent to EOCO. He was, therefore, asked to produce EOCO’s copy of the test result, which he said was addressed to the executive director.

Dr. Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd are currently facing a combined 24 charges: Abetment of crime, defrauding by false pretence, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, willfully causing financial loss to the state, manufacturing fertiliser without registration, selling misbranded fertiliser and selling adulterated fertiliser, Corruption by public officer. Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd were, however, acquitted on three counts of money laundering they were charged with when the case began.

The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognisance bail each.

Transcript

Q: Mr Paul Agyei Gyan, give your full name to this court.

A: My name is Paul Adjei Gyang.

Q: You are a public servant. That is correct.

A: Yes, my lord

Q: You work with EOCO.

A : Yes, my lord

Q: You are with organised crime unit of EOCO. that is correct.

An: My Lord, I used to be the Head of organised crime unit, but currently I am at operations directorate as senior staff.

Q: Sir, in 2018, you were the Head of organised crime unit of EOCO. That is correct.

An: My Lord that is correct

Q: And located at the head office of EOCO Accra.

A: Yes, my lord

Q: And in 2018, you were 51 years old. That is correct?

A: That is correct, my Lord

Q. Sir, cast your mind back to January 16 2017. Were you the Head of organised crime unit of EOCO as of that date

A. Yes, I was my Lord

Q. Sir, have you ever heard of a product lithovit

A. Yes, my Lord, I have

Q. So tell this honourable court, on January 16 2017, did anything happen whilst you were working in relation to lithovit

A. My Lord, around the same time, I can’t be specific; it’s been a long time, but just as you have led, around the same time, lithovit as an agric product together with other agrochemical products which had allegedly reported to have been fraudulently sold to COCOBOD was referred to my unit for investigation

Q. Who was the Head of the investigation that it was referred to

A. DS0 Prosper Akrasi

Q. What does DSO mean

A. Deputy Staff Officer

Q. Who referred the matter to DSO Prosper Akrasi

A. My Lord, I did refer it

Q. How did the matter get to you

A. My Lord, the matter was referred to me through the deputy executive director in charge of operations by the executive director

Q. In our layman’s language, you mean that the executive director referred the matter to the deputy executive director of operations, who then referred it to you

A. Yes, my Lord

Q. To you as the Head of organised crime unit under operations

A. Yes my Lord

Q. Tell this honourable court who were the people allegedly accused to have sold the fraudulent fertiliser to COCOBOD

A. Immediately, my Lord ,I can only remember Seidu Agongo of Agricult company Limited and then Siisi Cresntsil, who had also supplied another product, either Sarago or SMA…

Q. You said you referred the matter to DSO Prosper Akrasi. Did you refer to him alone?

A. No, my Lord, at EOCO, we work in teams, but he was specifically in charge of the agrochemical cases

Q. And who does he report to

A. My Lord, he reports to me

Q. Have you ever heard of the position deputy chief executive in charge of agronomy and quality control at COCOBOD

A. Yes, my Lord

Q. Cast your mind back to April, specifically April 4 2017, and tell this honourable court did anything happened in the investigation in relation to this deputy chief executive A and QC

A. My Lord, as I told you, there were a lot of cases we were interacting with,

Q. On the 4th, did anything happen to the Lithovit in respect of deputy chief executive A and QC

A. Yes, my Lord

Q. Kindly tell the court what happened

A. The deputy chief executive in charge of agronomy and quality control in the person of Dr. Adu-Ampomah, brought in samples of the said lithovit to the then executive director for office to have it tested

Q. These samples of Lithovit how were they brought or forwarded to EOCO

A. My Lord, if my memory serves me right, I was called to the executive director’s office together with the investigator, and we were given two bottles, one litre each, to be tested. And in addition to the two bottles, there were covering letter from COCOBOD covering the submission of the product

Q. who signed this covering letter, which covered the samples from COCOBOD to EOCO

A. My Lord, immediately I can’t remember, but if I see it, I will remember

Q. You and your investigator were handed over two litres of the sample at the executive director’s office

A. Yes, my Lord

Q. Did you receive any instructions

A. Yes, my Lord

Q. What was the instructions, Sir

A. My Lord, we were directed to have the product tested

Q. Who were to test the product

A. My Lord, two institutions came to mind. Ghana Standards Authority and the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana

Q. Did anything happen on the 20th of 2017 in relation to this testing

A. The samples one was sent to the chemistry department and one was sent to the Ghana Standards Authority through the executive director

Q. Apart from the standards authority, did you send it anywhere too

A. That is the chemistry department of the University of Ghana

Q. What was the purpose of the test Sir

A. My Lord, the purpose was to establish through the experts whether or not the chemical lithovit was fertiliser

Q. On the 5thbof May 2017, did your department receive anything in respect of this testing

A. Yes, my Lord, but I can’t be sure if it was received from the chemistry department first or Ghana standard authority

Q. Now, what you received from the testing, what did they send to you

A. My Lord, they sent a report.

Q. The samples that you sent did you receive them back?

A. I hope so because that is the normal practice.

Q. Please look at exhibit H, page 110. Is that a report from the University of Ghana, the chemistry department?

A. My Lord, I am having challenges here because a report that was received from the University of Ghana should be directed to the executive director, and I’m not seeing that here.

Q. The first page is a letter from the University of Ghana that’s correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. It references a reference number from EOCO?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Tell this honourable court, did EOCO receive a report from the University of Ghana

A. Yes, My Lord, EOCO report from the University of Ghana, as I told this court, even though references are made to EOCO forwarding letters, but this letter is not addressed to the executive director of EOCO

Q. The one you received was addressed to the executive director; that is correct

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. But it is not the one which appears on exhibit H, page 110

A. This letter is different from what we received.

Q. EOCO has a copy of the report they received?

A. EOCO should have a copy.

Q. If the court orders you, can you oblige this court with a copy the next date?

A. EOCO is an institution of record. I should be able to produce a copy.

NB: Benson applied that EOCO should be directed to produce a copy of the report submitted by the University of Ghana and Ghana Standards Authority, and the court directed same.

Q. You received a report of the analysis of the University of Ghana, even though you will provide us with a copy, what did the report say?

A. My Lord, it’s been some time now and because I’m not a scientist until I see the report, I can’t tell what it says.

Q. When you received the report, did you take any step in the investigation of the matter?

A. Yes, my Lord, if I may have to go back. On the surface of the report, without making reference to the chemical compositions that were on it, to the ordinary eye, what we saw was that the chemical which was submitted to the Ghana Standards Authority lacked the ingredients to make it qualify as fertiliser.

Q. So, did you take any steps after receiving that report?

A. After the executive director had gone through the report, he directed that the accused, by then he was a suspect, the suspect Seidu Agongo be charged with the appropriate offence immediately.

Q. So what step did you take?

A. My Lord, we invited the suspect, Seidu Agongo, who came with his lawyer.

Q. So, suspect Seidu Agongo came with his lawyer; what transpired?

A. My Lord, I think he first came, and he was informed that we have tested the product and the result was negative, so he asked that a copy of the results be given to him to enable his lawyer to advise him.

Q. So what happened?

A. As the Head of the unit, I rejected that and put him before the executive director for further directive.

Q. When you informed him about the findings, did he accept it?

A. He objected that the product we tested might not be the one he supplied to COCOBOD.

Q. What do you mean by he objected?

A. My Lord, he objected that the chemical we tested probably might not be part of the products he supplied to COCOBOD. So we, the investigator and myself took him to the executive director.

Q. Sir, when you took him to the executive director, what transpired?

A. I think he was asked to go and be invited another time.

Q. When you went to the executive director, why was he asked to go and come back?

A. My Lord, this was to pave the way for the executive director and Dr. Adu Ampomah, deputy chief executive A and QC of COCOBOD, to have a deliberation about the test result.

Q. When the investigator, yourself and A2 went to the executive director, what was Seidu Agongo’s position on the testing?

A. My Lord, he objected in the presence of the executive director as he had earlier done.

Q. Was the source of the product that was tested known to Seidu Agongo at the time of testing?

A. My Lord, I can’t be sure, but he was told that the product came from deputy chief executive A and QC, Dr. Adu-Ampomah.

Q. Please, when was he told this one?

A. It was told after the testing.

Q. You said when the result came, you invited him and told him the result, was it after the test?

A. I can’t remember.

Q. But you are clear that it was after the testing.

A. I can’t be too sure.

Q. When you said he objected, what were the concerns he raised?

A. My Lord, his concern, if I remember was that the product which was tested might not be part of the consignment he had supplied to COCOBOD.

Q. When A2 was told to go and come back and that he would be invited, what happened?

A. My Lord, after deliberations with Dr. Adu Ampomah, it was agreed that once they still have some of the products at the warehouse, they should invite all the suppliers to go with COCOBOD to identify the product that was to be tested to avoid further objection by suppliers.

Q. The initial samples, were they taken in the presence of A2?

A. No, they were brought in by Adu-Ampomah.

Q. When Adu Ampomah and the EOCO director agreed that the investigators should take samples from COCOBOD in the presence of the supplier, what happened thereafter?

A. They were written to. Seidu Agongo and another supplier were to come on another date to assist in the selection of the products to be tested. When I said they were written to, they were written to by the deputy executive director.

Q. So, did they come for the selection?

A. Yes, my Lord, they came.

Q. Kindly tell this court what happened.

A. In the case of Seidu Agongo, who had come with his lawyers for the procedure to be followed, Dr. Adu Ampomah asked them to meet the schedule officer for that purpose off the warehouse at the Spintex road. So, my Lord, the investigator was equally informed to be present, so he went.

Q. Has COCOBOD got warehouses?

A. My Lord, COCOBOD has agrochemical warehouses.

Q. Have you ever heard of the director of procurement at COCOBOD?

A. Yes, I think I had interactions with Akutek.

Q. On June 29 2017, did you send your investigator Akrasi anywhere on that date?

A. I think that was the date they went and picked the samples at Spintex.

Q. Who else was in the company of the investigator Akrasi?

A. My Lord, it was the investigator and A2.

Q. Was anybody with them from EOCO?

A. They met at the warehouse. The investigator was given instructions to meet at the warehouse where Seidu Agongo and his counsel, together with personnel from COCOBOD, were supposed to be there.

Q. Did this team have any interaction with the director of procurement, one Akutek?

A. Not if my memory serves me right. According to the investigator, two security personnel at the warehouse were instructed by Akutek to give samples to the investigative officer and the suspect.

Q. What happened when they got to the warehouse of COCOBOD?

A. According to the investigator, they were given one litre of lithovit, whose seal had already been broken by the two security officers.

Q. What was the arrangement that the director of EOCO reached with Dr. Adu-Ampomah regarding the collection of the sample?

A. The arrangement was that both the supplier and the receiver should agree with the investigator on collection of the sample.

Q. When they got to the warehouse, were the officers of COCOBOD present?

A. According to the investigator, the two security men representing COCOBOD were there.

Q. And what happened when the two security men met the suspect and the investigator?

A. My Lord, the security officers on behalf of COCOBOD gave samples which seal had been broken to the investigator.

Q. Did A2 react? What did he say?

A. Yes, my Lord, according to the investigator, A2 initially objected to the bottle because the seal had been broken, but seeing his label on it, he said the label was his, but cannot guarantee what was inside.

Q. The two security officers, can you remember their names?

A. It has been a long time; it should be in my statement.

Q. Have you heard the name Vincent Egbenohotso?

A. It doesn’t sound familiar.

Q. What about Prince Negbley?

A. It doesn’t sound familiar.

Q. Those samples were samples that were handed over to the investigator; what was done with it?

A. My Lord, as was agreed by COCOBOD, EOCO and third party, it was sent to the Ghana Standards Authority.

Q. Can you remember the date the, June 30, with respect to the second testing?

A. That was the date it was sent to be tested.

Q. What about July 2 2017? Did you receive anything in respect of the testing?

A. Yes, my Lord, the office received the test report.

Q. And this report was from the Standards Authority to the executive director?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. EOCO has a copy of this report.

A. EOCO should have, at a point in time EOCO was asked to send all the reports to the police for further investigation. So, the reports were part of the docket submitted for further investigation.

Q. And ordinarily EOCO would have the duplicate copy, that is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. And if this court directs that EOCO should present a copy of the report, would you be able to produce it?

A. Not personally; I cannot guarantee because I have left the unit for more than six years.

Q. But the institution should have a copy?

A. I think so.

Q. What is your recollection of the second test from the Ghana Standards Authority?

A. From the face of it, the report said it was fertiliser.

Q: you mean the second report from Standards Authority, which was picked by all parties, says it was a fertiliser?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Even with the seal broken, the content was fertiliser?

A. Yes, my Lord, according to the report.

Q. Have you ever heard of the name Material Science Department of the Ghana Standards Authority?

A. Yes, my Lord, if I may throw some light on the results of the three tests. My Lord, after receiving the test results from Ghana Standards Authority, the team met with the executive director and his deputy and having seen the changes in the results, my Lord, we invited the two scientists who worked on the substance. The first substance, the one that went first, which was addressed to the chief executive of Ghana Standards Authority, was referred to the Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department for analysis. And then, the second one, which was also addressed to the chief executive was referred to The Material Science Department for analysis. EOCO addressed the two letters to the chief executive Ghana Standards Authority, but one ended at the Material Science Department and the other Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department for analysis. So we invited the heads of the two departments together with the analysts who did the analyses, and my Lord, from their analyses, both departments were looking for different chemical components.

Q. Did you find out which of the departments was equipped to analyse fertiliser: Material Science Department on the one hand and Drugs Forensic Cosmetic Department on the other hand was equipped to analyse fertiliser?

A. My Lord, from the analysis from the Material Science Department, they were equipped to analyse the substance.

Q. You said you invited the heads of the departments and the analysts.

A. I can only remember one Pheona.

Q. Have you ever heard the name Pheona Gyamfi?

A. Yes, I think she is one of the heads of the department.

Q. What about Genevieve Baah Mantey?

A. I can’t remember.

Q. For how long have you been an investigator?

A. Almost 36 years.

Q. Were all these 36 years with EOCO?

A. No, not with EOCO.

Q. So I presume you have worked with another security services?

A. Yes.

Q. Which one is that?

A. Ghana Police Service.

Q. So, what do you investigators call an investigative report?

A. It is a report that is written after an investigation is completed.

Q. Who writes this report?

A. By the investigative team, supervised by the executive director and the deputy executive director because they have to endorse it.

Q. Who signs the report on behalf of the team?

A. If it is a draft, the investigator signs through the Head of the unit, and the Head of the unit submits it to the deputy executive director for onward transmission to the executive director or wherever the report is supposed to go.

Q. Who signs the final report?

A. The executive director.

Q. Did your investigative team prepare a report on this matter?

A. My Lord, to the best of my knowledge, we did not complete the investigation, so any report that was written was between us and management.

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