Ato Essien, CEO of defunct Capital Bank, jailed 15 years in hard labour

William Ato Essien, Chief Executive Officer of defunct Capital Bank, has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for stealing GHC90 million cedis. Essien has paid GHC37 million cedis out the GHC90 million. This was after he had changed his plea of not guilty to guilty on 16 counts of Conspiracy to steal, stealing and money laundering on December 13, 2022. The court, however, suspended his sentence when he and his lawyers agreed with the state to refund the amount involved. Essien’s failure to refund the entire amount led the state to file an application seeking his incarceration in May 2023. The Court in handing down Essien’s sentence noted that stealing by the Chief Executive officer of the defunct Capital Bank was an ordinary one; as Essien’s action led to the collapse of the bank. According to the Court, the monies were moved from Capital Bank in Jute bags to set up Soveriegn Bank, adding that, the action of Essien led to pain and tears, and people lost their jobs. It said those who lost their jobs were still engaged in job hunting. The Court noted that huge sums of money were lost and the State had to spend huge sums of money to bail out depositors. According to the Court, the convict took advantage of the fact that he was a majority shareholder of the defunct bank and demonstrated greed by establishing the Sovereign Bank. It said that it had been magnanimous to Essien by granting him several opportunities to pay the money. The trial Judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, a Court of Appeal Judge, emphasised that the Court had granted Essien several opportunities to make payments under the law, adding that, at the last adjourned date the Court did not sit and it did not sit during the legal vacation. ‘One would think that the convict respondent would take advantage of the two months legal vacation and make some payment,’ he noted. The State, led by Mr Joshua Sackey, a Senior State Attorney, being led by Mr Richard Gyambiby, Principal State Attorney, moved the application for the imposition of custodial sentence on Essien, after failing to pay his outstanding amount of GHc53 million cedis to the State. Mr Sackey held that per the agreement of the Republic and the convict respondent under Section 35 (7) of the Court Act, Essien agreed to pay GHC90 million cedis. According to Mr Sackey, the Court adopted the said agreement, but Essien had failed to abide by the terms of the agreement. ‘Per their showing, the convict respondent (Essien) will not be able to fulfil his obligations. As a result of this we pray the court to pass a custodial sentence on the convict respondent as he has violated Section 35 (7) of the Court’s Act.’ Defence Counsel Baffour Gyau Bonsu Ashia, who held the brief of Thaddeus Sory, however, opposed to the application of the State on two grounds. According to Mr Ashia, the application was premature and same did not invoke the inherent jurisdiction of the court. According to Defence Counsel, his client had demonstrated to the Court that he would be able to pay the outstanding balance of GHC53 million cedis when given some time. He, therefore, prayed the court to give him six more months to pay the balance, saying that although his client had not been working after the collapse of the bank, he had not been sleeping. The Defence Counsel recounted that his client’s passport had been seized by the court, saying that had made things difficult for his client to mobilise funds in and outside Ghana in order to make payments. The Counsel recounted some challenges his client had had after a judgement was obtained against him in respect some properties located at Prampram in the Greater Accra Region. He said but with the said judgement, Essien would have sold some properties in order to make some payments. The Counsel said imposing a custodial sentence on Essien would defeat the purpose and spirit of the Section 35 (7) of the Court’s Act. He, therefore, prayed the Court to tamper justice with mercy and grant Essien some time to pay the outstanding balance. Essien was jailed for misappropriating millions of cedis offered by the Bank of Ghana in the year 2015 and 2016 as liquidity support to Capital Bank. He was jointly charged with two others. Mr Tetteh Nettey, a Managing Director of MC Management Services, owned by Essien, and Reverend Dr. Fitzgerald Odonkor, a former Managing director, were , however, acquitted and discharged by the same court. Essien would have served a total of 95 years on some 23 counts slapped on him by the Court but his partial refund of the money and other mitigating factors were considered. Additionally, some of the sentences will run concurrently.

Source: Ghana News Agency