Capital Bank trial: Court rejects Ato Essien’s GHc90m payment to ‘escape prison’
The Accra High Court has rejected an amount of Ghc90m by William Ato Essien, the Founder of the defunct Capital Bank to possibly escape jail in a trial in which he has been accused of stealing depositors fund.
Justice Eric Kyei Baffour was ready today with his judgment but had to pause after lawyers for Essien and the prosecution informed him that the accused person has agreed to pay GHC90m as restitution to the state.
The move by Essien was pursuant to Section 35 of the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459) which allows an accused person to plead guilty and pay restitution to the state in cases in which there had been financial loss to the state.
Justice Kyei Baffour, a Justice of the Court of Appeal , sitting as an additional High Court judge, however, rejected the agreement.
In a ruling, he said the agreement was not a good deal for the state, adding that Essien had shortchanged the state.
He said Essien took the money in 2015 when the cedis to dollar exchange rate was Ghc3.79 pesewas and therefore if Essien wanted to refund the money he should pay it at the current exchange rate of Ghc13 cedis and also pay interest.
According to the judge , if he accepted the agreement in its current form, it meant people who had committed crimes would be made to profit from it.
“It should not be made to appear that he has outwitted the state in the commission of a crime,” Justice Kyei Baffour ruled.
Again, the judge ruled that the case did not fall under Section 35 of Act 459 because the monies involved did not belong to the state but rather to depositors and shareholders of the defunct Capital Bank.
Also, Justice Kyei Baffour wondered why Essien wasted the time for the court to go through three years of trial and only agree to pay the money a day before the judgment .
The judge therefore adjourned the trial to December 13 for the prosecution and Essien to come back with a better deal and also convince the court whether the trial was one that fell under Section 35 of Act 459.
Essien is standing trial with Fitzgerald Odonkor, a former MD of Capital Bank and the MD of MC Management Services, a company said to be owned by Essien, Tettey Nettey.
The prosecution has accused the three persons of engaging in various illegal acts that led to the dissipation of a chunk of the GH¢620 million liquidity support given to the Capital Bank by the BoG between June 2015 and November 2016.
The accused persons have pleaded not guilty to various counts of stealing, abetment to stealing, conspiracy to steal and money laundering.
Capital Bank was one of the first banks that collapsed after a massive clean-up of financial institutions by the BoG started in 2017.
On August 14, 2017, its license and that of UT Bank were revoked by the BoG, after the BoG had declared them insolvent.
The BoG allowed the state-owned bank, the GCB Bank, to acquire the two banks in order to protect depositors’ funds and also enable them to stay afloat.
The hurricane that swept through the banking sector due to the collapse of the two banks further heightened in August 2018 when the central bank collapsed five other indigenous banks and merged them into one entity — Consolidated Bank, Ghana.