General News of Friday, 6 May 2011
Source: The Enquirer
An Accra Circuit Court yesterday sentenced the General Overseer of the Vineyard Chapel International, Bishop Vagalas Kanco, to 18 months’ imprisonment in hard labour, for defrauding a British national of £120,000.
“This is my judgment, all mobile phones switch off” were the words of a circuit court judge before handing the jail sentence to Bishop Kanco.
The defence team had expected the court to defer the sentence to enable the convict to pay the 120,000 pounds, but the trial judge, Mr. D.E.K. Daketsey, sprang a surprise when he pronounced conviction.
In its judgment, which lasted about 47 minutes, the court held that the prosecution was able to prove that the convict had defrauded the complainant beyond reasonable doubt that, the convict had taken advantage of the situations of the complainant to defraud her.
Bishop Kanco was arrested and charged with defrauding a British national to the tune of £120,000, under the pretext of healing her of her spiritual problems.
The convict, who stared at the trial judge while the latte read his judgment, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit crime of defrauding by false pretence, contrary to Section 13(1) and defrauding by false pretence, contrary to Section 131 of Act 29 of the Criminal Code of 1960.
The court was, however, silent on whether the sentence should begin from the day Bishop Kanco was arrested. In effect, his sentence took immediate effect.
The court held that the prosecution was able to prove that Bishop Kanco, a pastor who travelled many times for crusades, stopped travelling immediately after getting the money from the complainant.
It further held that the convict’s assertion that the money was a gift and not for him to pray over and return, cannot be true, since the convict in his own evidence in court showed that he requested the complainant to issue the cheque in his name.
The defence put up “by the accused person does not raise reasonable doubt in my mind. I am fully satisfied with the evidence led by the prosecution. I, therefore, convict the accused person on the count of defrauding,” the judge said.
The presiding judge stated that the prosecution was able to prove the guilt of the convict beyond reasonable doubt, adding that “the prosecution proved that the accused person did not take steps to return the money even when the complainant took the matter to lawyers for advice.”
It said it was also clear from the prosecution’s evidence that the convict did not show any sign that he was a man of God, who seeks for the welfare of his congregations but rather was bent on defrauding them in the name of services to the Lord.
After his client was convicted for the offence, Mr. Kissi Agyebeng, counsel, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy because his client was an accomplished man of God and head pastor of the church, who stood as a good servant to the society.
He prayed the court to defer the sentence and grant the convict bail to enable him to pay back the money for his client as a first time offender.
However, a Chief State Attorney, Mr. Rexford Wiredu, who prosecuted the case, also prayed the court to take into account the fact that Bishop Kanco was an accomplished man of God whom the youth looked up to and for that reason it was important for the court to send a sound warning to the youth and posterity that crime did not pay.