THE JUDICIAL Service has refuted claims that the judge in the trial of founder and former Chief Executive Officer of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, accused the state for being compromised in reaching a GH¢90 million agreement with the accused who has agreed to refund the money he stole from the bank.
A statement signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, said the presiding judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, did not state or infer that the state was compromised but rather enquired in court whether the other accused persons would not be compromised as a result of the agreement for Ato Essien to pay a restitution.
“The trial judge would like to correct the above-stated reportage and place on record that no statement in the nature of the media reports referred to above, or imputing misconduct on the part of officials of the state, was made by the court either on December 1, 2022 or throughout the trial of the case,” the statement said.
“He (the trial judge) enquired from one of the defence lawyers whose client has been charged with the offence of abetment and conspiracy, whether the terms of the agreement entered between the state and the first accused would not compromise the position of the other accused persons,” it added.
Ato Essien is on trial with 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 for stealing from the GH¢620 million liquidity support given to the struggling bank by the Bank of Ghana.
Mr. Essien, who is facing 16 counts of conspiracy to steal and stealing, reached an agreement with the Office of the Attorney General to plead guilty to the charges levelled against him and is willing to repay GH¢90 million as restitution and compensation under Section 35 of the Courts Act. He has already paid GH¢30 million.
The trial court last Thursday was ready to deliver its judgment in the case that had travelled for a little over three years when Justice Kyei-Baffour announced the agreement between the accused and the prosecution.
The court, however, rejected the agreement, indicating that the terms are not acceptable to the court. He said the money was stolen in 2015 at the time when the exchange rate was GH¢3.70 to $1 and allowing Ato Essien to pay GH¢90 million seven years down the line would be making crime attractive.
He said Section 35 of the Courts Act covers offences that result in loss or damage to the state or an agency of the state, but this case in his opinion does not occasion any loss or damage on the state or its agency but instead on the bank and its depositors as all the charges make reference to money stolen from Capital Bank.
Justice Kyei Baffour held that it is not lost on the court that the liquidity support was given by the Bank of Ghana, but that support is a loan given to the defunct bank and the fact that government had to indemnify depositors did not make the money that of the state.
He, therefore, rejected the terms of settlement and adjourned the case to December 13, 2022, to allow the parties to discuss the exact amount to be paid and to address the court on whether Section 35 of the Courts Act is applicable in this case.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak