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Crime & Punishment of Friday, 25 February 2022


GH¢27.5m from Capital Bank’s GH¢620m liquidity support was my commission – Ato Essien

Founder of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien Founder of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien

Ato Essien charged for misappropriating Capital Bank funds

Ato Essien to call witness on March 28

Ato Essien and two others plead not guilty

The Founder of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, has said that he received some GH¢27.5m as finder’s fee, out of gh¢620m given to his bank as a liquidity support

According to Ato Essien who is standing trial for embezzlement, he earned the payment as commission, having facilitated payment of the liquidity support (loan) by the Bank of Ghana.

On his last day under cross examination by Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, Ato Essien insisted that he earned the payment for assisting his bank to secure the GH¢620m loan.

To back his position, he told the court that the payment of the GH¢27.5m “finder’s fee” was sanctioned by the board of Capital Bank.

His claims however were contested by the prosecutor who referred to an “exhibit EEEE4” – a statement dated June 6, 2018, that noted there was no board approval.

Maintaining his position however, Ato Essien contested that, “In my earlier statement, I admitted that, I was in receipt of the GH¢27.5m which was finder’s investment and same invested in the completion of Ocean Spring.”

“I also paid GH¢1m as part of the finders which I have also admitted to refund and as I write this statement, it is left with GH¢26.5 million because this is finder’s. There is no need for board approval and the determination of what the money is put into or used for. The practice is for Management decisions and captured as such and not for the board to approve.”

“This is clearly a reinforcement of the role between the executive directors and the non-executive directors. Management approval is a tacit approval of the servant of the bank. The clarification here is when EOCO had demanded a documentary engagement of the role I played and in my answer to that, I had said Management’s oral agreement was all that I needed to proceed to find the bank the money and not the case of board approving payment of finder’s fee. This was the context in which this statement was written,” he added while reading portions of the said exhibit.

Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, further put it to the accused person that he misappropriated about GH¢200million from the said loan granted to Capital Bank.

Ato Essien however contested the claims noting that he did not have access to the treasury Capital Bank.

“Because I am not in Management of the bank, I am not a signatory to the bank. I am not part of the day-to-day operations of the bank. I, therefore, cannot have access to the treasury of the bank,” he told the Court, presided over by Judge Justice Eric Kyei Baffour of the Court of Appeal.

The prosecutor went on to state that the said GH¢200million was used by Ato Essien to set up a sovereign bank and complete the establishment of Ocean Spring.

“I never had any personal benefit and my personal bank account can prove same,” Mr. Essien retorted to the allegation by the prosecution.

Before being discharged from the witness box, Ato Essien denied claims by the prosecution that by taking approximately GH¢200million belonging to Capital Bank for his personal use, he caused the collapse of the bank.

“My lord, it is factually incorrect, because I currently stand on trial for GH¢130m and GH¢27.5m finder’s fee which I legitimately earned.”
“Cumulative of this figure is GH¢170.5m and I did not appropriate it for my personal use. My appropriation was only limited to the GH¢27.5m which I legitimately earned and had the right to use it the way I please,” he said.

Mr. Essien (A1), and two others have been charged with 23 counts including stealing and money laundering.

The first accused together with Tetteh Nettey (2nd) and Fitzgerald Odonkor 3rd have also been accused of misappropriating some GH¢130m of the GH¢650m Capital Bank as liquidity support from the Bank of Ghana.

All the suspects have pleaded not guilty to the combined charges and have been granted bail.

Hearing on the matter has been adjourned to Monday, March 28, 2022, when Ato Essien is expected to call a witness into the box.