Ato Essien, 2 Others To Open Defence, One Set Free

Kate Quartey-Papafio and William Ato Essien

A High Court in Accra yesterday ordered the founder of insolvent Capital Bank, William Ato Essien and two others to open their defence respectively, for their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of funds leading to the collapse of the private bank.

The accused persons are facing 26 different offences for which they have pleaded not guilty.

The court, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, held that the prosecution has been able to establish prima facie case against the three and needed to open their defence.

The court in its ruling on a submission of no case to answer filed by lawyers for Atto Essien, Fitzgerald Odonkor and Tetteh Nettey, held that the prosecution had led sufficient evidence to prove 23 out of the 26 charges levelled against them.

The court however, acquitted and discharged the fourth accused person, Kate Quartey-Papafio, CEO of Reroy Cables, who was facing three counts of conspiracy to steal, stealing and money laundering.

Main Trial

The defunct bank’s former Managing Director, Fitzgerald Odonkor together with Tetteh Nettey, a former Managing Director of MC Management Service owned by Mr. Essien as well as a businesswoman, Kate Quartey-Papafio, had been arraigned, charged with 26 counts of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering.

The four 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.

At the close of the prosecution’s case after calling 17 witnesses, lawyers for the accused persons filed a submission of no case to answer before the court.

Main Ruling

Justice Kyei Baffuor, in his ruling, divided the case into four folds of GH¢100 million and another GH¢20 million that Ato Essien allegedly conspired with Tetteh Nettey and assisted by Mr. Odonkor to be transferred to All Time Company Limited, forming the charges of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering as contained in counts 1, 2,3, and 4.

Lawyers for the accused persons had contended that the money, which is the subject of the charge of stealing, cannot be said to have been stolen as they are loans that would be paid back and further argued that the monies transferred to All Time Capital Limited were investments that are still with the firm.

The court in its ruling held that the prosecution proved that Ato Essien allegedly caused Tetteh Nettey to set up MC Management and monies were transferred to MC Capital as funds for the setting up of Sovereign Bank for the benefit of Ato Essien.

Justice Kyei Baffour held that those monies that went through a chain of transfers for the eventual establishment of Sovereign Bank did not belong to Ato Essien, and said the prosecution has established a prima facie case against them and must open their defence respectively to explain their sides of the story.

GH¢65 Million

The other is some GH¢65 million allegedly transferred to Nodio Capital by Ato Essien and allegedly abetted by Mr. Odonkor, forming seven (7) out of the 26 charges.

The court held that the prosecution had led sufficient evidence to show that money was moved from Capital Bank to Nodio Limited and MC Capital to deprive Capital Bank which was the custodial of those monies.

According to the court, the claim of the prosecution “has not been discredited moreso when recourse is made to evidence before this court.”

The judge added that there is prima facie made to show that there was conspiracy between Ato Essien and Tetteh Nettey and abetted by Mr. Odonkor to steal and launder money, and a defence is required from them.

11 Charges

The other 11 charges of stealing,  and abetment of stealing related to some GH¢27 million paid to Ato Essien and abetted by Mr. Donkor as business promotion.

Justice Kyei Baffuor held that Ato Essien did not deny the receipt of the said money but said he was ready to refund those monies.

He said if the said payments of the said business promotion to the staff of Bank of Ghana were protocols and business promotion fees, then it would be a ‘euphemism’ for corruption.

The judge said there is evidence from the prosecution that Mr. Odonkor admitted that he made the payments of the said monies with approval of the board chair but there is no such approval before the court, hence it is only him who can tell how those huge sums of money were paid as protocols and business promotion fees to persons he claims he does not know.

Businesswoman Discharged

The fourth leg of the ruling focused on some GH¢100 million paid to a company owned by one Ali Seidu out of which GH¢70 million was transferred into the bank account of Kate Quartey-Papafio, which formed charges of counts 24, 25, and 26 on the charges sheet.

The court in its ruling held that the prosecution could not prove that Kate Quartey-Papafio knew that the GH¢70 million deposited in her bank account belonged to Capital Bank as she was only told by Ato Essien and others that it belonged to unknown investors, which was the basis for which she wrote a letter to the receivers of the defunct bank to withdraw the money when the bank went into receivership.

Childish Move

The court concluded that the businesswoman “acted childishly by failing to apply her presumed business acumen as a successful businesswoman who should have been wise and diligent.”

The court however added that “the law does not punish the fool but only the one who acted with evil intent” and therefore, acquitted and discharged her on the three charges.

The court has adjourned the case to July 22, for Ato Essien, Nettey and Odonkor to open their defence.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak