Ato Essien Dismissed, Opens Defence Oct 14

Ato Essien

An Accra High Court judge has ordered founder of insolvent Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, to open his defence on October 14, 2021, after being arraigned for stealing and other offences.

The court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, last week dismissed Ato Essien’s application for stay of proceedings pending appeal.

The court in its ruling on a submission of no case filed by Ato Essien, held that the applicant did not indicate that the appeal has a chance of success at the appellate court, and also that the accused opening his defence will not infringe on his fundamental rights.

Lawyers for Mr. Essien had filed an application for stay of proceedings pending the determination of an appeal against the ruling of the court, which ordered him to open his defence after it found that the prosecution had made a prima facie case against him and two others in the trial.

Prima Facie

The court in its ruling on a submission of no case to answer filed by respective lawyers for Ato 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.

Motion For Stay

Ato Essien was expected to open his defence yesterday, but he filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal and subsequently filed a motion for stay of proceedings at the trial High Court pending the determination of the appeal.

Moving the motion yesterday, Baffour Gyau Bonsu Ashia, who held brief of Thadeus Sory for Ato Essien, argued that a careful reading of the appeal will confirm that Ato Essien raised serious and fundamental issues involving the court’s application of evidence on record, which needs to be determined by the Court of Appeal.

“We are again saying that exceptional circumstances exist in this particular instance, reason being that there was viable chance of the success of applicant’s appeal,” he added.

Prosecution’s Opposition

The application was opposed by the prosecution led by Marina Appiah Opare, a Chief State Attorney, who argued that the application did not show any grounds for the proceedings to be stayed.

She said the least critical consideration for the application to demonstrate was that there was an exceptional circumstance to warrant the application but Ato Essien failed to prove that.

She added that Ato Essien has not shown that any loss will occasion him if the application was denied.

Application Dismissal

Justice Kyei Baffour in his ruling held that it is now settled that for a court to stay its own proceedings pending an appeal, an applicant must demonstrate special or exceptional circumstances why the proceedings should wait for the appeal to be determined, explaining that “and for this discretion to be exercised in favour of an applicant, he may show that the appeal stands a great chance of success or that the further hearing of the suit in a criminal case such as this will gravely infringe on his right.”

He said reading the application together with the affidavit and examining the whole processes, the court can only state that the chance of success of the applicant at the Court of Appeal is very bleak and, therefore, finds no compelling reason or justification to stay the proceedings.

Justice Kyei Baffour, therefore, adjourned the matter to October 14, 2021, for Ato Essien to open his defence.

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, 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.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak