… But remains silent on Pastor Mensa Otabil’s liability
Deputy Attorney-General, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, has announced that the state would continue to pursue the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, even after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Mr Essien, was yesterday jailed by the presiding judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, following his failure to pay in full an amount of GH¢90 million he agreed to pay the state, despite several lifelines given him since December 2022.
However,he can regain his freedom, if he pays the outstanding GH¢53 million to the state as reparation and restitution.
The Accra High Court, had imposed the 15-year jail term on Mr Essien, for stealing over GH¢90 million belonging to the bank which had Pastor Mensa Otabil, founder of International Central Gospel Church as its board chairman. The Attorney-General has remained silent on the roles and liabilities of the pastor and other board members.
According to Mr Tuah-Yeboah, the state intends to seize the former CEO’s immediate properties to recover a portion of the GH¢53 million he still owes the state.
Mr Tuah-Yeboah, clarified that the 15-year sentence with hard labour handed to Ato Essien, does not exempt him from fulfilling his financial obligations to the state.
“If he serves this sentence, the state will still pursue him and get the remaining amount and so it is not as if he is going to serve his sentence and then the amount will be forfeited. We are going to trace his incumbent properties and go after that in a civil action,” Mr Tuah-Yeboah said on Citi FM’s Eyewitness News on yesterday.
Mr Tuah-Yeboah, disclosed that the state had entered into a payment agreement with Mr Essien, with the understanding that he would repay the GH¢60 million he owed.
Unfortunately, Mr Essien, defaulted on this agreement by paying only GH¢37 million at the time of his sentencing on yesterday.
“The state has been able to retrieve GH¢37 million from the convict and he is also serving fifty years imprisonment maybe if he had not refunded the GH¢37 million, he could have had a higher sentence but as far as we are concerned.
“We entered into this agreement with him under Section 35 with the understanding that he goes by the terms of the agreement and he made some commitments by paying 37 and he couldn’t go through the entire agreement and he had to go and serve the fifteen years.”
Ato Essien, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of stealing, money laundering, and conspiracy to steal for his role in the collapse of Capital Bank.
He, however, entered a plea bargain with the state under section 35(7) of the courts ACT 459.
Under the agreement, Mr. Essien was expected to pay GH¢90 million for which he paid GH¢30 million cedis on December 13.
He was to pay the GH¢60 million remainder in three equal instalments in 2023; GH¢20 million by April 28, another GH¢20 million by August 31 and the last GH¢20 million by December 15, 2023.
A major condition of the agreement was that the court would not hesitate to impose a custodial sentence, if he missed any of the payment deadlines.
However, Mr Essien, failed to pay the remainder.
In a ruling yesterday afternoon, the court, presided over by Justice Kyei Baffour, held that Essien has failed to pay the restitution to the state per the agreed terms with the A-G.
The agreement was pursuant to Section 35 of the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459), which allows accused persons standing trial for causing financial loss to the state to pay the money and possibly avoid a custodial sentence.
Essien paid GH₵30 million of the amount on December 1, 2022, and per the agreement as adopted by the court, was ordered to pay the remaining GH₵60 million in three instalments.
However, Justice Kyei Baffour said as of yesterday, Essien had paid only GH₵7 million out of a possible GH¢40 million, missing the deadlines for April 28 and August 31 this year, bringing the total paid to GH₵37 million of the total GH₵90 million.
Justice Kyei Baffour, however, ruled that Essien, could regain his freedom if he paid the outstanding sum of GH₵53 million, which is what is left for him to pay to the state as reparation and restitution.