William Ato Essien
SENIOR VICE President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil, has commended the Office of the Attorney General for reaching a GH¢90 million settlement agreement with founder and former Chief Executive Officer of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien.
According to him, the agreement reached between the Attorney General and the accused person to refund the money he stole from the bank in 2015 instead of going to jail is one of those instances where he could say state officials are performing their duties.
He believes the decision to recover the money for the state at this crucial moment, especially when the prosecution had called 17 witnesses during the trial, is a crucial one.
“I just want to say for whatever it’s worth to the public that this is one of the cases where I think our state officials are doing a good job,” Mr. Bentil said on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday.
“Over ten witnesses were called, the details we are going through; you can’t just get up and then throw somebody in jail because you believe he has done this or that,” he said.
Mr. Bentil was reacting to a decision by an Accra High Court to reject an agreement between Ato Essien and the Attorney General to pay GH¢90 million, GH¢30 million of which has already been paid, and the remaining GH¢60 million is to be paid in instalments.
The court, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei-Baffour, had indicated that the terms of agreement are not acceptable to court, noting that 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, 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.
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.
The 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. Some Ghanaians have questioned the terms of settlement.
But Senior Vice President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil, has urged Ghanaians to “trust the people who you have elected to do the job. In this matter really, I will say that trust what the AG’s department is doing. I doubt if those criticising the AG would have done better if they were in the same position in this matter.”
On the issue of whether Section 35 of the Courts Act is applicable to this case, he said “Section 35 is a very good provision and those of us who are in policy who look at what goes on in this country and the millions that we lose and we don’t recover over the decade have come to realise that, indeed without Section 35 it is lucrative rather to steal. It is without 35 that people steal and I have seen some.”
He further stated that, “There is very good reason, in philosophy and in what is proper and practical for us to have a Section 35 and I repeat, because there are people who actually steal state money and want to go to jail for five, even ten years; come back and enjoy it.”
“The AG went in fairly within the law to try and gain something for the state. I have seen people who were willing to go to jail, come back and come and enjoy their money. So, there is good merit to Section 35 and I think that I trust the AG’s department,” Mr. Bentil stressed.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak