July 13, 2024
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Ato Essien’s sentencing not surprising at all – Kweku Paintsil

Private legal practitioner, Kweku Paintsil says the sentencing of Founder of defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien to 15 years in prison is not surprising.

Mr Essien was convicted of stealing over GH¢90m of Bank of Ghana’s liquidity support to the now-defunct financial institution.

Speaking in an interview on Joy FM’s Top Story, Mr Paintsil noted that Mr Essien’s jail term has nothing to do with his capability to pay the judgment sum.

However, it is the natural consequence of his noncompliance with the terms agreed by the court.

“The conviction that came as a result of his noncompliance or failure to pay the money ordered by the court is not surprising. It is the natural consequences of his noncompliance,” he told Blessed Sogah on Thursday, October 12, 2023.

This, he explained is because “at the point that you go into a plea bargain, plea bargain itself starts with an acknowledgement of admission of guilt so every time that a matter goes to court, there are two things. I am talking about criminal action. First, is the conviction and second is the sentencing.

“So anytime that a party pleads guilty to a matter and he is convicted, he is at the mercy of the court in terms of sentencing and when it comes to sentencing, depending on the nature of the offence, the punishment is prescribed by law and it typically provides for an option of a fine or imprisonment or both in almost all cases, only the term determines whether misdemeanor or felony.”

He added “So at the point that you pleaded guilty as part of the plea bargain, you stand convicted before the court. The rest is the order that the judge made arising upon the terms upon which the parties negotiated or the court gave its consent for the matter to be settled on those terms.”

With the above explained, he noted that once the party involved defaults on the terms agreed upon, “you go back to where you stood before which is the conviction and the rest is for the judge to sentence.”

According to him, the judge in sentencing Mr Essien to 15 years was doing what the law required of him.

“When it comes to sentencing, it is a range and the judge has a discretion to exercise. And once he exercises it, it will hardly be questioned even on appeal. Unless you are able to demonstrate that he went beyond bounds,” he added.

Ato’s imprisonment comes following his inability to fully pay the GH¢90m amount back to the State after agreeing to do so.

He earlier paid ¢30 million upfront in December 2022 and was required to pay ¢20 million as the first installment of the ¢60 million outstanding amount by April 28, 2023.

But he was only able to pay ¢5 million. In May, he was given up until July 4 to liquidate his assets and pay the state ¢55 million. This deadline elapsed without any payments made.

The state then submitted a request to the court, seeking a custodial sentence in line with the agreement terms.

Justice Eric Kyei Baffour upon a request by the convict’s lawyer deferred the hearing of the application to impose a custodial sentence.

Background

William Ato Essien, Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor and Tetteh Nettey, a former Managing Director of MC Management Service owned by Mr. Essien were charged with 23 counts of conspiracy, stealing from the ¢620 million liquidity support given to the bank by the Bank of Ghana (BoG), to enable it to service its maturing debt.

The accused persons, according to the prosecution, opened various bank accounts with Capital Bank through which the ¢620 million BoG liquidity support was transferred while others were carried in jute bags to Ato Essien.

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