Court threatens to issue arrest warrant for Ato Essien over delay tactics

A Commercial Court in Accra has threatened to issue a warrant for the arrest of former chief executive officer of the defunct Capital bank, William Ato Essien, over delay tactics.

The court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, says it will be forced to act as the first accused person and his lawyers continue to delay in the presentation of his [Ato Essien’s] evidence in chief to the court.

Ato Essien, opened his defence on the 4 November 2021. He subsequently appeared before the court on the 11 and 18 November 2021 to continue his evidence in chief.

However, he failed to appear today (25 of November) to continue same.

Doctor’s Letter
Lawyer for Ato Essien, Baffour Gyau Ashia Bonsu, presented a letter from the doctors of his client indicating to the court that Ato Essien was suffering from sleep Apnea – a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

The condition is believed to be more common in men.

Request for Adjournment
Essien’s lawyers to this end, asked the court for a two-week adjournment to allow their client to recover from his medical condition.

However, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour’s court did not consider the excuse of the first accused person tenable. The court indicated that in order to avert the delay, it is forced to make specific orders with regard to the case.

“I have been shown a letter purported to have emanated from one Dr Rex Kwame Bonsu of Korle Bu Teaching hospital. In the said letter, it is claimed that the witness before the court who is the first accused in the case has been diagnosed with what the doctor claims is obstructive sleep disorder, (Sleep Apnea). The letter proceeds to state that the blood pressure of the first accused is also flatulating” Justice Kyei Baffour said in his ruling.

“Having opened his defence in respect of the charges against him which provides for anxious moments, these symptoms are natural products and I don’t see it as a good basis for the first accused being absent from court. Beyond this, the court has observed the snail pace approach that has been adopted in the delivery of the examination in chief of the first accused” the court further said .

Orders of the court
“To avert further delays, the court in the exercise of it powers and discretion intends to ameliorate any medical condition that is afflicting the 1st accused by giving the following orders”.

1. First accused person as well as all the other accused persons are to file their respective witness statements intended to be used as evidence in chief before the court”.

2. “The witness statements are to have all the necessary attachments by way of documents that the accused persons intend to tender as exhibits before the court”.

3. “The accused persons shall also file witness statements for all the intended witnesses that they intend to parade before the court”.

4. “In the alternative, if any of the accused persons intend not to give a sworn testimony but a statement from the dock, they are to indicate so and file that statements”.

“The accused persons are afforded a period of 12 days to comply with the orders of the court. The order must be complied with on or before Tuesday the 7th of December 2021” Justice Kyei Baffour ruled.

The court subsequently adjourned sitting to the 9 December 2021.

Background
In all, the state has called 17 prosecution witnesses throughout the case.

Among the witnesses were Vish Ashiagbor, one of the receivers appointed to wind up Capital Bank; Michael Kwame Amoako-Atuobi, a former relationship manager for Capital Bank; Emmanuel Kontoh Arthur, a former general manager in charge of Treasury at Capital Bank; Sharon Okwaa Boateng, a former supervisor of the Cash Management Unit at Capital Bank; Benone Yaw Asihene, a former Special Assistant to the Executive Committee; Donatus Kwesi Freitas, an officer of the Bank of Ghana; Daniel Gaikpah, the former chief banking officer in charge of Operations with Capital Bank; and Lawrence Otoo, a banker.

The rest are Felix Koranteng-Asante, a businessman who dealt in installation of CCTV cameras; Peter Amadu Iliasu, the former Chief Executive of All Time Capital Ltd; Aseye Seyram Komla Akotia, a former vice-president in charge of Investment with All Time Capital Bank; Kwame Acheampong Kyei, a former chairman of Sovereign Bank; Edem Bart Williams, a former chief executive officer of Nordea Capital; Ali Seidu, chief executive officer of Maripoma, Volta and Impex Ltd; Teddy Friko, assistant to Ali Seidu; Chief Superintendent Ernest Frimpong of the Special Investigations Team; and Joseph Oppong, the investigator.

Facts of the case
According to the facts sheet, “The first accused person, William Ato Essien, was the majority shareholder of Capital Bank Limited (Capital Bank), a wholly owned Ghanaian Bank which previously operated as a microfinance company.

The second accused person, Tetteh Nettey, was the managing director of MC Management Services, a company established by the first accused person purposely for the promotion of the incorporation of Sovereign Bank, another brainchild of the first accused person.

“The third accused person, Fitzgerald Odonkor, was the managing director of Capital Bank from June 2015 to August 2017 and the fourth accused person, Kate Quartey-Papafio, is a businesswoman and chief executive officer of Reroy Cables Company Limited.”

The facts further state that: “Between June 2015 and November 2016, pursuant to an application by Capital Bank, the Bank of Ghana (BOG) provided a total sum of GHC620 million as liquidity support to Capital Bank to enable it meet its capital adequacy ratio and to enable it service its maturing debt obligations.

“In October 2015, the first accused person, aided by the 3rd accused person, caused a transfer of a sum of GHC120 million of the liquidity support amount to All Time Capital Limited (All Time), an investment management and advisory firm. At the instance of the first, second and third accused persons, GHC100million of the GHC120 million which had been transferred to All Time, was further transferred to MC Management Services while GHC20 million of the amount of GHC120 million was transferred to Pronto Construction and Supplies Limited (Pronto Construction).

“The sum of GHC100 million which was transferred to MC Management Services was subsequently represented by the second accused person to BoG as initial capital of Sovereign Bank while the GHC20 million that was transferred to Pronto Construction was used by the managing director of Pronto Construction, ostensibly to purchase shares in Capital Bank.

“Again, at the instance of the first and third accused persons, GHC65 million out of the BoG liquidity support of GHC620 million was transferred to Nordea Capital Limited described as an investment bank. Of the amount of GHC65 million, the first accused person, aided by the third accused person, caused GHC30 million to be transferred to MC Management Services which was represented to BoG as additional initial capital of Sovereign Bank by the second accused person.”

The facts further state: “With the aid of the third accused person, the remaining GHC35 million of the GHC65 million was paid into a Fidelity Bank account of Brietling Services, a company also established by the first accused person. At the request of the first accused person, the amount of GHC35 million which was transferred into the account of Brietling Services was subsequently transferred to Capital Africa Group, a company owned by the first accused person.

“The total amount of GHC130 million which was represented as initial capital of Sovereign Bank was eventually channelled by the first and second accused persons into Capital Africa Group, the first accused person’s company, less bank charges. The monies transferred into Capital Africa Group was eventually dissipated by the first and second accused persons.

“Between June 2015 and October 2016,” the facts further state, “the first accused person, with the support of the 3rd accused person, appropriated a total of GHC27.5 million of the liquidity support which was conveyed in jute bags to the first accused person and purportedly used as payment for business promotion.

“In June 2017, in furtherance of the conversion of portions of the GHC620 million liquidity support, the first accused person caused a sum of GHC100 million to be paid into a Capital Bank account held by the Managing Director of the following three companies: Maripoma Enterprise Limited, Hardwick Limited and Volta Impex Enterprise Limited opened purposely to receive the amount.

“The GHC100 million was to be used by the managing director of the three companies, ostensibly as payment for 30% shares in Capital Bank. As a cover-up of the conversion, the first accused person prevailed on the managing director of the companies to submit copies of Government Payment Certificates of the three companies valued at GHC135 million to be discounted to GHC105 million by Capital Bank, to be used as collateral for the purported loan of GHC100 million.

“The first accused person then caused GHC70 million out of the GHC100 million that had been previously paid into the managing director’s account at Capital Bank, to be transferred to the fourth accused person’s account with Calbank Limited.

“The first and fourth accused persons subsequently caused the amount of GHC70 million in the Cal Bank account of the fourth accused person to be further transferred into a personal account of the fourth accused person purposely opened at Capital Bank to receive the amount.

The facts sheet sums up as follows: “Some time in 2017 after Capital Bank had gone into receivership, the fourth accused person, even though fully aware that Capital Bank had gone into liquidation, attempted to withdraw the whole amount of GHC70 million which had been lodged in her personal account with capital bank but was however prevented from doing so by the receiver.”

Defence lawyers after the state closed its case indicated that they were desirous of making a submission of no case to answer for the charges levelled against their clients.

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