Capital Bank trial: Ato Essien, two others face judgment today

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The fate of the Founder of the defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien; the Managing Director (MD)of the bank, Fitzgerald Odonkor, and Tettey Nettey, the MD of MC Management Services, a company said to be owned by Essien would be determined, as the court delivers its judgement later this morning.

The three have all pleaded not guilty to a combined 23 charges of stealing, abetment to stealing, conspiracy to steal and money laundering

Mr. William Ato Essien, the first accused person, Tettey Nettey, the second accused person and Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor, the third accused person have all mounted their defense to charges.

Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge has been presiding over the trial which started on October 15, 2019, and ended today, December 1, 2022 — after two years and five months.

According to EIB Network’s Legal Affairs Correspondent, Murtala Inusah, the judgement of Justice Eric Kyei Baffour would be delivered at 11:00 am on today, Thursday, December 1, 2022.

Charges

Ato Essien is standing trial with the Managing Director (MD) of the defunct bank, Fitzgerald Odonkor, and the MD of MC Management Services, Tettey Nettey. MC Management Services is said to be owned by Essien.

The accused persons have pleaded not guilty to a combined 23 charges of stealing, abetment to stealing, conspiracy to steal and money laundering. They are on bail.

They have been accused of engaging in various illegal acts that led to the dissipation of the GH¢620-million liquidity support given to Capital Bank by the BoG between June 2015 and November 2016.

Bail
Following a bail application by their respective lawyers, Essien, Nettey and Odonkor were each granted bail in the sum of GH¢200 million with two sureties who were to be of good character and substance.

As part of the bail conditions, Justice Kyei-Baffour further directed them to deposit their passports at the court’s registry.

Witnesses

Whilst the state prosecutors led by Mrs Marina Appiah-Opare, a Chief State Attorney (prosecution) called 17 witnesses in the matter, the three accused persons except Ato Essien, the first accused called a witness.

Revocation of licence

The Capital Bank (Indegenous) was one of the first banks that collapsed after a massive clean-up of financial institutions by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) started in 2017.

The BoG, on August 14, 2017, revoked its licence and that of UT Bank after it had declared them insolvent and allowed the state-owned bank, 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, known as Consolidated Bank, Ghana.

Brief facts

The prosecution, led by the then Attorney-General (A-G), Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, accused the four people of engaging in various illegal acts that led to the dissipation of the GH¢620 million liquidity support given to Capital Bank by the BoG between June 2015 and November 2016.

It is the case of the A-G that Essien, with Odonkor’s aid, transferred the liquidity support to certain companies either controlled by him or in which he had interest.

She said, an amount of GH¢130 million of the liquidity support was transferred to MC Management Services, which was later presented to the BoG as the initial capital to set up Sovereign Bank, another bank in which Essien had an interest.

The A-G further alleged that between June and October 2015, Essien, aided by Odonkor, appropriated GH¢c27.5 million of the liquidity support by carrying it in jute bags.

“The money was purportedly used as payment for business promotion,” she told the court.

The AG also accused Essien of giving some liquidity support to his cronies in the form of a loan to be used to buy shares in Capital Bank.

Acquittal

Initially charged with (Essien, Nettey and Ordonkor) was Madam Kate Quartey-Papafio, whom the A-G had said as part of the scheme to further dissipate the GH¢620 million liquidity support, Essien transferred GH¢70 million of the money into her bank account at Cal Bank.

The prosecution further accused Ms. Quartey-Papafio of trying to withdraw the money in 2017, even though she was aware that Capital Bank had collapsed and was in receivership.

The withdrawal, the A-G submitted, was, however, prevented by the receivers of Capital Bank.

But, after the prosecution had closed its case after parading 16 witnesses, she was acquitted and discharged by the court upon its ruling on submission of no case.

In a ruling on July 8, 2021, Justice Kyei Baffour held that the prosecution failed to establish any prima facie case against Ms Quartey, to warrant her to open her defence.

He ruled that there was no evidence that showed that the businesswoman intended or acted in any way to steal money from Capital Bank.

According to the judge, the businesswoman only acted as a trustee for another person who wanted to purchase shares from the bank but had no knowledge that the said money was part of the liquidity support.

Also, the court held that the said money (GH₵70million) was still in the custody of the Consolidated Bank and had not been appropriated or stolen by the businesswoman.

“A prima facie case has not been established against her. Rather she acted childish in the deal. The law does not punish the fool but the one with evil intention,” the court ruled.

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