Religion of Thursday, 5 May 2011
Accra, May 5, GNA - The General Overseer of the Vineyard Chapel International, Bishop Vagalas Kanco, was on Thursday sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after being found guilty for defrauding by false pretences.
Bishop Kanco was accused of defrauding a British national, Ms Clova Sutherland, of A3120,000.
He was alleged to have made the complainant to believe that she would die if she did not allow him to pray over the cheque for the money. He pleaded not guilty to one count of defrauding by false pretence and was on bail.
The Bishop, however, claimed the amount was a gift from the complainan= t. According to him, "the money was not extraordinary in the line of my work as an evangelist and man of God".
The Court presided over by Mr D.E.K. Daketse ordered the Bishop to refund the money to the complainant. The court told the Bishop to read Psalm 51 while in incarceration. Mr Rexford Wiredu, a Principal State Attorney, told journalists after the judgement that the State would appeal against the judgement. He said the court did not give Bishop Kanco the timeframe within which he should refund the money.
Mr Wiredu said the offence was a second degree felony, which carried the maximum sentence of 25 years.
Bishop Kanco's lawyer, Mr K. Adjabeng, earlier prayed the court to defer sentence 93so that we can sort out ourselves". He said: 93We considered the amount as a gift and if the court in his wisdom says it is not a gift, we will return it." The defence counsel prayed the court to defer sentence and admit Bishop Kanco to bail.
According to him, the conviction of Bishop Kanco would send a bad signal of pressing criminal charges against men of God after receiving gifts from people.
Mr Wiredu also told the court earlier that it should take into consideration the fact that Ghana had been ranked second in the world as the country where foreigners fall prey to cyber crime. He said if the court deferred sentence and granted Bishop Kanco bail, it would amount to the court shooting itself in the foot. Mr Wiredu said it was wrong in law for the court to arrest its own judgement.
In the court's judgement, it noted that Bishop Kanco had been given time to refund the money but he refused. It noted that the complainant gave the money to the Bishop on the basis of trust she had in him and 93Kanco breached that trust." The court said its decision should serve as a signal to men of God who went about deceiving gullible people in society adding that the society was wide awake and the laws of the land would extend their tentacles to all areas.
He rejected Bishop Kanco's defence that the money was given to him as a gift, noting that it was not true that the Bishop did not know the complainant and she had never set eyes on her. It recalled that there were several instances or attempts made by the complainant's counsel for the Bishop to refund the amount. The court said it was Bishop Kanco who convinced the complainant that the cheque needed to be exorcised of the alleged demonic spirits of the occult practices of the complainant's husband. The court said the complainant was cash strapped and needed the money to pay her debts in the UK and it was not possible to give such an amount to the Bishop as a gift. 5 May 11