General

How Yaw Adu-Ampomah, ‘star witness’ in Opuni-Agongo case, ‘bulldozed’ Bulgarian Embassy

Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the ‘star witness’ in the ongoing trial of former Ghana Cocoa Board CEO Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, both of whom have been accused of fraudulently causing financial loss of GHS271 million to the state through a conspiratorial procurement of Lithovit fertiliser from Agricult Company Limited, which is owned by Mr Agongo, has been caught at the centre of a brewing diplomatic storm between Ghana and Bulgaria in the past one week.

North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who blew the whistle on what he calls the “provocative”, “lawless” and “mafia-style” demolition of the Bulgarian Embassy in Accra by Dr Adu-Ampomah, has wondered why the former Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), who was in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control and the third prosecution witness in the GHS271-million COCOBOD case, has not been arrested for – in the opposition lawmaker’s words – the “thuggish lawlessness” and “aggressively mindless attack” he, together with some elements, launched on the foreign mission, which, in the lawmaker’s view, was tantamount to a “declaration of war” on the Southeastern European nation by Ghana.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who flip-flopped during his testimony in the ongoing five-year-old trial, also served as the Special Advisor on Cocoa Affairs to the Minister of Agriculture.

The “Bulgarian Demolisher”, as the opposition lawmaker calls Dr Adu-Ampomah, is also an appointee of President Nana Akufo-Addo at the National Planning Development Commission (NDPC).

Mr Ablakwa believes Dr Adu-Ampomah should not be left off the hook for his “lawless scheme” and must be made to take the sole responsibility of restoring the embassy to the Balkan state rather than the state shifting the burden on the poor Ghanaian just as happened in the case of the Nigerian High Commission in Accra that was also razed unlawfully a few years ago.

“It is costing the Ghanaian taxpayer GHS5.24 million to restore the demolished property belonging to the Nigeria High Commission. The restoration of the bulldozed Bulgarian Embassy will cost far more. In all these, the perpetrators are protected, pampered and presented with a bouquet of flowers by the powers that be. Not a single arrest or prosecution”, Mr Ablakwa wondered in one of his many social media posts on the matter. 

“We are only reminded of the full force of the state when Oliver Barker-Vormawor, Prof. Raymond Atuguba, Mensah Thompson, Bobie Ansah, Manasseh Azure, and others engage in ‘verbal demolishing’. Why won’t we be broke when the government has the audacity to consistently waste our money to compensate for the mess caused by their greedy marauding cronies who are never made to pay for their crimes? And don’t you forget, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah — the Bulgarian Demolisher, is still keeping his appointment at the NDPC. Is this Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana?” he asked. 

Welcoming, “with some reservations”, the move by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, in appointing Sole Inquirer Kwasi Anto Ofori-Atta to probe the matter, Mr Ablakwa said: “In the meantime, as investigations commence, we call on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to immediately interdict Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who remains at post as his appointee and a member of the National Development Planning Commission. Our demand is consistent with best practice across the world. May justice be done and may our coveted image in the comity of nations be restored”. 

Following the issuance of a press statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dissociating itself from the Opuni-Agongo trial’s star witness’ bulldozing of the Bulgarian Embassy, Mr Ablakwa wrote: “… You wonder why Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah and his collaborators were not long-arrested but were allowed to terrorise diplomats, demolish their embassy and illegally erect an apartment complex”. 

Despite the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s press statement and the posting of a ‘Stop Work’ order on the property a day after Mr Ablakwa brought up the issue in the public domain, the former COCOBOD Deputy Chief Executive and his collaborators still went ahead to continue working on a structure they have been “hurriedly” putting up. 

It took another intervention from the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, to storm the premises to order the stoppage of work. 

Dr Adu-Ampomah’s Role In Opuni-Agongo Trial

In early November 2019, Dr Adu-Ampomah conceded in court under cross-examination by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, lead counsel for Dr Opuni, that COCOBOD never advertised to solicit bids from the public as far as the procurement of fertilisers was concerned.

“Dr Adu-Ampomah, when you said before purchases are made for fertiliser, it has to be advertised and specifying the product they required, you were not being truthful,” Mr Cudjoe put to the witness in May 2019.

“My Lord, I was being truthful,” he answered.

Still, under cross-examination, the Daily Guide newspaper in July 2019 quoted Dr Adu-Ampomah maintaining in court that: “…In some instances, adverts are placed in the papers. In some other times, due to the peculiar nature of some chemicals, they are not but in general terms; you are supposed to do. But sometimes, if it is explained to PPA it could be allowed without placing adverts in the papers”.

After a long break, however, proceedings resumed on 7 November 2019 with the witness reiterating his stance on the procurement of fertilisers through advertisement in the Daily Graphic.

When Mr Cudjoe reminded him that even the Procurement Manager at COCOBOD and others have told the police that all the fertilisers purchased by the company are sole-sourced and not advertised, Dr Adu-Ampomah retorted, “My Lord, that is not true. What pertains is what I just stated: that is, depending on the circumstance, it could be advertised or sole-sourced or known companies could be invited or restrictive tendering can be made.”

“I am putting it to you that in the entire life of COCOBOD, there has never been any occasion that the general public has been invited to bid for fertilisers by way of advertisement. It has never happened in any newspaper in Ghana,” the counsel for Dr Opuni asserted.

“For fertilisers, yes, my lord”, Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted in contradiction to his own earlier assertion.

Still, in 2019, Dr Adu-Ampomah disowned the prosecution’s own powdered Lithovit foliar fertiliser sample entered into evidence the previous year.

During his evidence-in-chief on 29 October 2018, the state’s second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, who was a research scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), and played a key role in the testing of Lithovit foliar fertiliser in 2013, disclosed that the sample brought to him to test was a fine greyish powder in a cylindrical container with a green cover.

In Dr Arthur’s testimony at the time, he said: “A letter introducing Lithovit foliar fertiliser and signed by former Deputy Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control of Cocobod, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, was minuted to me by my head of division, Mr A. A. Afrifa to go for the sample from Chairman of the committee for Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM)”.

However, when faced with that same sample during the hearing on Wednesday, 27 November 2019, Dr Adu-Ampomah denied knowledge of it.

In his words: “My lord, I don’t know where this is coming from because this will not be the sample that was brought the first time. The first sample came in 2013 and I don’t know whether it is this same sample you are referring to. The sample which came in 2013 of which Dr Amoah is referring to, I wouldn’t know if it is the same thing you are showing to me.”

Furthermore, on 5 December 2020, Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted in court that his committee that was empanelled to investigate alleged fertiliser testing anomalies at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) neither included a fertiliser expert nor a soil scientist.

Responding to questions posed by Mr Sam Codjoe, the lead counsel for Dr Opuni, the AG’s witness said his four-member committee was rather composed of lawyers.

Dr Adu-Ampomah was Deputy Chief Executive, Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD from 2009 to September 2013. After the 2016 elections, he was called back from retirement to head the transition team at COCOBOD, primarily to interrogate the activities of COCOBOD in the previous administration.

In February 2017, Dr Adu-Ampomah was again appointed Deputy Chief Executive, Agronomy and Quality Control. In October 2017, COCOBOD set up a committee chaired by Dr Adu-Ampomah, ostensibly to investigate alleged anomalies in the testing and procurement of Lithovit foliar fertiliser supplied by Agricult Ghana Limited.

Other members of the committee included Mr Sefa, Director of Legal Affairs at COCOBOD; Mr Francis Opoku, Solicitor Secretary to the board and Mr Laing, a lawyer from the legal department, COCOBOD.

The committee interrogated scientists who were involved in the testing of Lithovit and reported their findings to the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) for further probe.

However, during cross-examination, it emerged that while none of the members of the committee had expertise in fertiliser testing or soil science, the committee also failed to invite Dr Opuni as part of their interrogations of persons involved in the testing and procurement of the Lithovit fertiliser.

Dr Adu-Ampomah intimated that his committee’s work dealt with persons still in the employment of COCOBOD and since Dr Opuni had exited, they decided not to summon him for his side of the story but to report him to a state investigation institution for further investigation.

Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted calling Dr Opuni personally within that period to return the official mobile phone given him by COCOBOD.

Mr Codjoe also confronted Dr Adu-Ampomah with statements he had earlier made in his evidence-in-chief on how Dr Opuni allegedly ordered for the testing periods of fertilisers to be truncated.

Mr Codjoe pointed out that per the dictates of COCOBOD, such important directives would be communicated through letters.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, while admitting that is the norm, maintained that Mr Afrifa, Dr F.M. Amoah and one Dr Acheampong told the committee that they were, at one point, instructed by Dr Opuni to shorten the testing of chemicals; an allegation Mr Sam Codjoe refuted and demanded evidence to that effect.

Also, contrary to his own claims that the Lithovit foliar fertiliser purchased by COCOBOD in the 2013/14 crop-year did not improve crop yield, Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted in court under cross-examination on 21 January 2020 that no farmer ever complained about the alleged ineffectiveness of the agrochemical prior to investigations conducted by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO).

In the course of the trial, Dr Adu-Ampomah was cited for perjury by the defence team in 2019 in connection with his flip-flopping on the sole-sourcing of fertilisers by COCOBOD.

During the 4 June 2019 hearing, the witness admitted to having made purchases through sole-sourcing to the tune of US$161,692,473.26 from three companies in 2011.

The companies include Chemico Ghana Limited, which supplied US$52,933,000 worth of Cocoa Feed Granular fertiliser; Sidalco Ghana Limited, which supplied US$62,441,335.62 worth of Sidalco K-Rich and Sidalco Balance fertilisers; and Wienco Ghana Limited, which supplied US$46,318,138.24 worth of Asaase Wura Granular fertiliser.

Despite these huge purchases of fertiliser in 2011 by COCOBOD through sole-sourcing during the tenure of the state’s witness as the Deputy Chief Executive, A&QC, the total cocoa yield fell from 1,024,552 tonnes in the 2010/11 crop-year to 879,343 tonnes in the 2011/12 crop-year.

Dr Adu-Ampomah attributed the fall in yield for that particular crop season, to what he claimed was a yearly up-and-down swing, explaining that yields rise and fall every other year, respectively.

When asked if fertilisers purchased in a particular year could have an effect on the following year’s yield, he said things did not necessarily happen that way.

But when asked if he knew that in the first year of Dr Stephen Opuni’s leadership as Chief Executive of COCOBOD, the yield shot up to 896,221 tonnes from 835,446 tonnes of the preceding year despite purchasing a lesser quantum of fertiliser, Dr Adu-Ampomah told the court that the 2013/14 yield was a direct result of the application of the previous year’s agrochemicals.

In March 2018, the AG charged Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GHS271.3 million to the state and allegedly led to the distribution of sub-standard fertilisers to farmers.

Mr Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Mr Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on bail in the sum of GH300,000 each.

Source: Classfmonline.com

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