The Bolgatanga branch of the Belieb & Belieb LC law firm has shut down following the death of the two lawyers managing the firm in the Upper East regional capital.
The lawyers, Stephen Asuure and Rockson Akugre, died two weeks apart, and some of their family members suspect they may have been poisoned.
Stephen Asuure died on September 21, and Rockson Akugre died on October 8, 2022.
“The suspicion came about when we noticed he [Asuure] and Rockson’s symptoms were the same,” Diana Aburiya Asuure, the widow of Stephen Asuure, told The Fourth Estate.
She said her late husband was diagnosed with liver complications, “which spread very fast.” He later became “pale and bloated” before passing away, she added.
Mrs. Asuure said when their sicknesses began, their families did not suspect foul play until the later stages when they detected that the two lawyers were facing similar conditions.
The late Rockson Akugre moved to Tamale—where his wife lives—for treatment and was there until his death, while Mr. Asuure remained in Bolga. They fell ill at about the same time and spent months in hospitals and died at about the same time, a situation that heightened the suspicions of their families.
They suspect whatever toxic substance the two lawyers were exposed to worked slowly, so when the symptoms became severe, they could not point to any specific date or place that they might have been exposed to the poison.
“It could be as a result of cases they might have handled. They [those behind the suspected poisoning] may have targeted one of them [the two lawyers] and it affected the other,” Mrs. Asuure said.
“Without evidence, it’s difficult to pinpoint anybody,” she said.
According to her, the family was advised that since the sickness took so long and the deceased sought treatment at different places and medications, including herbal medicines. An autopsy report on the suspected poisoning, they were told, would not yield much. Besides, even if they were poisoned, they had no specific place or person to narrow it down to, she said.
She said early 2022, someone left a threatening note in their house, but they didn’t pursue the issue after initial investigations failed to indicate who had left it there and for what reason.
She disclosed that the law firm her late husband worked was shutting down.
“The law firm is closed. I went to take my husband’s books,” she said.
The head of the law firm, James Marshal Belieb, told The Fourth Estate he had to shut down the Bolgatanga branch of the firm because it was difficult to get any lawyer to accept posting there. He said rumours of the suspected poisoning “were so rife” that it created fear around the law firm.
He said he had closed down the firm and handed the office space back to its landlords.
He said that he had opened a branch of the firm in Bolga for the late Rockson Akugre to practice. Mr. Akugre was later joined by Mr. Asuure and the two lawyers had barely worked for a year when they fell ill, battled with their ailments for months before dying under suspicious circumstances.
“In the future, if I get a junior lawyer who is prepared to go to Bolga, we can find another space and re-open the firm,” he said.
An uncle of the late Rockson Akugre, George Adabre, told The Fourth Estate that the family also heard rumours about the suspected poisoning but had “given everything to God” because they could not establish who was behind it.
The Fourth Estate featured the Bolga branch of Belieb & Belieb LC in 2021 and interviewed Rockson Akugre as part of the Bongo Scandal investigations.
The lawyers of the firm acted as solicitors for Karim Asumbekere, a businessman whose company the Bongo District Assembly used to award a contract to senior officials of the assembly.
The assembly then paid money into the company’s account and went to the Maltaaba Rural Bank in Bongo to withdraw the money without the consent of the business.
Watch the full documentary on the Bongo Scandal in which the late Rockson Akugre was featured:
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