“It seems witnesses for the first accused (Dr. Stephen Opuni) always fall sick during cross-examination,” was the concern raised by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting as an additional High Court judge in the trial of the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
The judge raised the concern after the court was informed that the witness, Samuel Torbi, a farmer who was expected to enter the witness box for the prosecution to cross-examine him was sick and on admission.
The witness had been testifying for Dr. Opuni who is on trial together with private businessman, Seidu Agongo and his company, Agricult Ghana Limited, for allegedly causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state.
Appearing before the court yesterday, Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, told the court that the witness had sent him an envelope containing a medical excuse duty from the Ridge Hospital in Accra, indicating that he was on admission at the emergency ward of the hospital.
“I called him this morning after I opened and read the content of the envelope which was addressed to me… He also informed me that the doctors are saying that they want to conduct further test on him and they have assured him that, after they finish this test he will be released at the weekend,” the lawyer told the court.
Mr. Codjoe added that he asked the witness to get a medical report “and send same to me so that I can show it to the court but he informed me that they don’t give the patient’s medical records to the court unless the court requests by a court order.”
The prosecution led by Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, expressed surprise at what she termed “sudden turn of events since the witness appeared to be in very good health just a couple of days ago.”
She said she had asked Mr. Codjoe why the excuse duty does not indicate the ailment the witness is suffering from, and she was told that it was as a result of confidentiality.
“My Lord, we were ready to proceed with our cross-examination this morning but unfortunately, the witness is not available,” she added.
Justice Honyenuga, also indicated his surprise, stating that the witness looked very energetic and did not look like somebody who could fall sick within two days.
“It seems witnesses for the first accused always fall sick during cross-examination. I remember we had to adjourn this case for two whole weeks because of DW1(first witness) who was allegedly sick and was on admission.
“I am again equally surprised at the excuse duty form because no ailment has been stated on it because there is nothing hidden before the court in terms of ailment or otherwise,” he added.
He adjourned the case to May 23 for continuation.