Tuobodom (B/A), Aug. 21, GNA - Government efforts to revamp the cocoa industry suffered a setback when some residents at Woraso in Techiman Municipality framed up three officials of the Berekum Dstrict office of COCOBOD as armed robbers and brutally assaulted them. Kwaku Dankwah, a 26-year-old farmer, alleged ringleader in the assault case, was on Wednesday fined 3.5 million cedis by a Magistrate court at Tuobodom in the Municipality or in default would go to jail for 12 months in-hard-labour.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit crime and assaulting government officials.
The court, presided by Mr George Kroffah Addai, ordered that 1.5 million cedis of the fine, if paid, should be given to the officials, Messrs Augustine Effah, Principal Technical Assistant, Kwame Kyere and Joseph Atimberi, Disease Spotters of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease Control Unit of COCOBOD.
Five accomplices, Kofi Shaibie, Kwasi Yeboah, Asi Yaw, Kwadwo Small and another only known as Charles, are at large.
Sentencing him, Mr Addai stressed that it was an offence for people to prevent government officials from performing their rightful duties and attacking them as armed robbers.
"The accused did not even consider that the officials were carrying survey machines with which to identify the cocoa swollen shoot disease that had attacked most cocoa farms in the area", he noted. Mr Addai ordered the arrest of the accomplices "whose behaviour was so cruel".
Prosecuting, Police Chief Inspector Sampson Y. Jebuni told the court that, on July 27, this year, Messrs Offeh, Kwame and Atimberi were detailed for a demarcation exercise of cocoa farms at Woraso. Chief Inspector Jebuni said the exercise was to enable the disease control unit to identify various swollen shoot diseases that had affected cocoa in the area for eradication.
He said the officers on their arrival at Woraso, a cocoa growing area, they met Dankwah who took them to a drinking bar and offered them drinks.
Dankwah later led them and showed the areas they could demarcate and the officers, using their map successfully executed their job and went back to Woraso.
Chief Inspector Jebuni said the accused later spotted the officers on their return from the exercise and sent them to the same drinking bar and left them only to organize the runaway accomplices to arrest them as armed robbers.
The prosecutor said they brutally assaulted the officials and later sent them to the Woraso chief's house who asked his linguist and Dankwah to send them to the Techiman police station.
Chief Inspector Jebuni said when policemen on duty interrogated Dankwah as to what offence the officials had committed, he took to his heels but was apprehended after a hot chase.
He admitted raising the false alarm against the officials.
Meanwhile, Nana Kwasi Agyei, Techiman Municipal cocoa chief farmer, has described the attack on the officials as irresponsible, saying the accused could have enquired from the authorities rather than meting out such brutality that could have resulted in their death.