Ato Essien Challenges ‘Open Defence’ Order

William Ato Essien

The founder of insolvent Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, has filed a notice of appeal against the decision of an Accra High Court asking him and two others to open their defence.

The three are standing trial for their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of funds leading to the collapse of the private bank.

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

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 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.

Ato Essien was expected to open his defence yesterday but when the case was called, it turned out that his lawyers filed a notice of appeal to challenge the decision of the court.

They have subsequently filed an application for stay of proceedings pending the appeal and the application was scheduled for July 29, 2021, hence the court had to adjourn the matter.


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, were initially arraigned, charged with 26 counts of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering.

The four were 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, and Ms. Papafio was discharged while the three men were asked to open their respective defence in the matter.


Court Ruling

Justice Kyei Baffuor, in his ruling of the applications for submission of no case, divided the case into four folds of GH¢100 million and another GH¢20 million that Ato Essien allegedly conspired with Nettey and assisted by Odonkor to be transferred to All Time Capital 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 Baffuor 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 judge also tackled the issue of GH¢65 million allegedly transferred to Nodio Capital by Ato Essien and allegedly abetted by 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 more so, 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 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 Odonkor 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 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.


BY Gibril Abdul Razak