Counsel for the Economic and Organised Crime Office, (EOCO) Jacqueline Avotri has said the freezing of the accounts of former CEO of COCOBOD Dr Stephen Opuni, for the second time, was to safeguard the funds.
Lawyer Jacqueline Avotri said EOCO was just being cautious to ensure that proceeds of crime were not dissipated before the trial ends.
The former CEO Dr Opuni is standing trial before an Accra High court on 26 charges, including Causing Financial Loss to the State. Dr Opuni has since pleaded not guilty to all 26 charges and has been granted a GH¢300,000.00 bail.
Counsel for EOCO Jacqueline Avotri told the Court, presided over by Georgina Mensah-Datsa, that the first order to freeze the accounts was solely for investigative processes leading to the prosecution of the accused person.
Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe, the Counsel for Dr Opuni, who, on Tuesday, moved a motion to allow him access to his accounts accused EOCO of abuse of power in freezing the accounts.
After more than 13 months after his accounts were frozen, Dr Opuni secured a court order in April 2018 to allow him access to them, but EOCO did not oppose the application, which was granted.
However, EOCO within 24 hours sought to secure a second order from the Court to block the accounts again.
But Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe argued that the purpose of freezing Dr Opuni's accounts had been served because EOCO completed its investigations in July 2017 and as such it is strange to find EOCO seeking to block his client access to the accounts again.
Counsel for EOCO Jacqueline Avotri, however, told the Court that investigation was a process and at the time the directive was issued, Dr Opuni was already standing trial, adding that the notion that EOCO deceived the Court was incorrect and that it did not deceive the Court in any way.
She noted that the function EOCO played in the recovery of proceeds of crime was not in doubt as the Court had confiscated a number of properties to the State on the Application of the Executive Director of EOCO after investigations by a number of State agencies and after a successful prosecution.
“EOCO cannot initiate criminal proceedings without the authorization from the Attorney General’s Department,” she added.
Counsel for EOCO Jacqueline Avotri continued that the Executive Director’s role was to facilitate and investigate trials and not to conduct trials, because the A-G did not have the powers of investigation, freezing of accounts, seizure or confiscation of assets.
She said the approach by the boss of EOCO did not amount to an abuse of the Court Process, explaining that EOCO had not engaged in a multiplicity of suits because currently there was only one confirmation order dated April 24, 2018, to freeze the accounts.
Lawyer Jacqueline Avotri thus asked the Court to rebuke the Counsel for Dr Opuni, for describing EOCO as a “monster”.
“We take exception to the description of EOCO in the discharge of its lawful duty as a monster. We, therefore, pray the court to reprimand lawyers for Dr Opuni.
The Court has since adjourned to Monday, May 21 2018.