GH¢620m Stealing Case: Ato Essien Opens Defence

The Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, yesterday opened his defence in the trial in which he and two others are accused of misappropriating monies belonging to the bank, which led to its insolvency.

The accused person finally opened his defence after the court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, insisted that it was not minded to grant an adjournment to allow the accused and the prosecution come to an agreement on a proposal to refund parts of the money Ato Essien is accused of stealing.

Destiny Carrier

Mr. Essien began his defence by giving what could be the longest response to the preliminary question “what do you do for a living”, as he elaborately told the court about how he is a destiny carrier, a nation builder and a determined Ghanaian who believes that the true test of nation building cannot happen without the businessman.

“I am the talk of the drive of the finance minister, a true entrepreneur that creates out of nothing, businessman with capacity to assume risk. In other jurisdiction, what I do is called a risk taker and in other common reference, they refer to what I do as the engine of growth for economies. And so my Lord, I could’ve easily said I am an entrepreneur but what I do is bigger than that. My Lord, I could’ve said I’m a businessman but what I do is more than that,” he disclosed.

Mr. Essien, who at this point made many to murmur in the court room because of how lengthy the response was becoming, continued that, “My Lord, I could’ve said I’m one of the anchors as an active player, as an engine for the Ghanaian economy but my Lord, I rather submit to refer to myself as a destiny carrier for this nation. I’m a determined Ghanaian who believes that the true test of nation building cannot happen without the businessman, deep risk taker, deep entrepreneur but a destiny carrier and a nation builder carries all these.”

He concluded that, “My Lord, my answer is taking this time and with the greatest of respect, I will like you to permit me to finally say I am a destiny and a nation builder. That is what I live for, that is what I pant for and that is what I stand for.”

Justice Kyei Baffuor on a lighter note then asked counsel for the accused if he did not want his client to tell all this to the court when the lawyer was pushing for an adjournment.

Rejected Proposal

Meanwhile, the prosecution has rejected another proposal presented by lawyers for Ato Essien to pay part of the monies in respect of some of the charges for which he is standing trial.

His lawyers had prayed the court on October 14, 2021, to give them time to negotiate a payment plan with the prosecution under Section 35 of the Courts Act so the accused could refund part of the money.

Ato Essien is seeking to refund the GH¢27.5 million that the prosecution alleged he took in jute bags popularly called ‘Ghana Must Go’ for business promotion.

The prosecution, led by Chief State Attorney Marina Appiah Opare, told the court that negotiations are ongoing but the prosecution has rejected the proposal put forward by the accused person through his legal team.

She indicated that the accused person and his lawyers through a letter have now agreed to a counter proposal which was made in June last year by the prosecution.

She, however, told the court that the letter was sent to her via Whatsapp and the Attorney General is yet to officially receive the letter before discussions on the proposals are determined.

Counsel’s Confirmation

Baffuor Gyau Ashia Bonsu, who held brief of Thaddeus Sory, counsel for Ato Essien, confirmed what the prosecutor said and added that since the counter proposal came from the prosecution, he was ‘100 per cent’ sure it cannot be refused at this point in time.

He, therefore, prayed the court to adjourn the matter to allow them conclude the negotiations, adding that Ato Essien is not feeling well and was undergoing some medical examination.

Court’s Rejection

Justice Kyei Baffuor rejected the prayer for an adjournment, holding among others that, the negotiation which the parties are engaged in does not cover the whole of the charges for which Mr. Essien has been invited by the court to open his defence, stressing that “even in the likely event of a successful negotiation, the accused may still have to open his defence in respect of the rest of the charges which are about 20 counts.”

“It will therefore, do the court no credit in the proper management of the trial to adjourn proceedings to abide by the conclusions of a negotiation for which the parties may invariably end up coming to this court for the first accuse to open his defence.”

The court also held that there is no evidence before it to show that Ato Essien was not feeling well, adding that, “I am entitled to assume that there is no evidence compelling enough to convince the court that the first accused is not in a position to speak. For the above reasons and for the economy of time, I invite first accused to open his defence.”

Sitting continues on November 11, for Ato Essien to continue with his defence-in-chief.

Main Trial

Ato Essien alongside the defunct bank’s former Managing Director, Fitzgerald Odonkor as well as Tetteh Nettey, a former Managing Director of MC Management Service owned by Mr. Essien have been charged with 26 counts of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering.

The three (3) are alleged to have misappropriated a total of GH¢620 million liquidity support given to the private bank by the Bank of Ghana (BoG), to enable it to service its maturing debts.

The accused persons, according to the prosecution, opened various bank accounts with Capital Bank through which the GH¢620 million BoG liquidity support was transferred, while others were carried in jute bags, popularly known as ‘Ghana Must Go’, to Ato Essien.

Another person, Kate Quartey-Papafio, CEO of Reroy Cables, who was facing three counts of conspiracy to steal, stealing and money laundering, was acquitted and discharged by the court for lack of evidence.

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