William Ato Essien
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien has been given additional time by an Accra High Court to file his witness statements as well as exhibits in his GH¢620 million trial.
Ato Essien together with the defunct bank’s former Managing Director, Fitzgerald Odonkor as well as Tetteh Nettey, a former Managing Director of MC Management Service owned by Ato Essien are before the court charged with 23 counts of conspiracy to steal, stealing, and money laundering.
The three are alleged to have misappropriated a total of GH¢620 million liquidity support given to the bank by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to enable it service its maturing debt.
Mr. Essien was ordered to file his witness statement after the court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, expressed concern about the ‘snail pace’ at which the accused person was giving his evidence-in-chief.
The accused was initially giving oral testimony but failed to show up in court and the court was told that he was suffering from sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which one’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
But his lawyers were not able to comply with the court’s order to file the witness statement by December 7, 2021.
Baffuor Gyau Ashia Bonsu who held brief of Thaddeus Sory, counsel for Ato Essien told the court that they were unable to comply with the orders to file the witness statement together with the exhibits because of some ‘practical challenges’ which included securing some vital documents to attach to the witness statement.
He said they have written to the Receiver of the bank since December 2, 2021 and although the Receiver acknowledged receipt of the letter, he is yet to respond to it, adding that they may be applying to the court to compel the receiver to respond to their request.
Justice Kyei Baffuor then asked the lawyer how they were going to deal with the claim of struggling to get the documents when the accused person had already opened his defence.
Mr. Ashia Bonsu responded that they have a plan and intend to tell the court about the workings of Capital Bank and then Sovereign Bank, indicating that they have not reached anywhere yet regarding Capital Bank but once the accused has now been compelled to put everything together they would need some time to do just that.
He said they will need ‘weeks’ to put the documents together and file the witness statement, adding that they are determined to finish this case in time and they are not trying to unduly delay the trial.
Addo Atuah, counsel for Tetteh Nettey on his part indicated that they have also not filed a witness statement on behalf of the accused person because it is contingent upon Ato Essien filing his witness statement.
He indicated that the accused person has lost his mother and is preoccupied by the funeral arrangement which is why he was absent from yesterday’s proceeding, adding that the court should be lenient enough to grant an adjournment.
Miracle Atatsi who held brief of Justin Amenuvor for Fitzgerald Odonkor also stated that they have not yet filed the witness statement because it is a criminal matter and they intend to exercise their liberty to hold on with their defence.
She said they were delaying in filing their statement because when they file it others could use it as ‘damage control’ if they find that it contains stuff that incriminates them.
The prosecution led by Marina Appiah Opare, a Principal State Attorney, did not oppose the request for more time by the defence lawyers.
Justice Kyei Baffuor in his ruling held that “in the interest of fair trial and the need to preserve the right of an accused to the necessary facilities for the preparation of his defence the court will be magnanimous enough and grant learned counsel for accused more than even the three weeks he is praying for.”
He therefore, extended the time for the filing of the witness statement to the January 10, 2022, and adjourned the case to January 13, 2022, for case management conference.
The accused persons according to the prosecution opened various bank accounts with Capital Bank through which the GH¢620 million BoG liquidity support was transferred to while others were carried in jute bags to Ato Essien as payment for business promotion.
Source: Daily Guide