William Ato Essien, the founder of the now-defunct Capital Bank, was sentenced to 15 years in jail, a decision that private attorney Kweku Paintsil thinks is not shocking.
After Mr. Essien was found guilty, the now-defunct financial institution received about GH¢90 million in liquidity support from the Bank of Ghana.
Mr. Paintsil stated that Mr. Essien’s jail sentence had nothing to do with his capacity to pay the judgment amount during an interview on Joy FM’s Top Story.
That is, nonetheless, the inevitable result of his disregard for the conditions set forth 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 clarified, he said, “You go back to where you stood before which is the conviction and the rest is for the judge to sentence,” if the person in question fails on the conditions stipulated.
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 was imprisoned after he promised to repay the State GH¢90 million, but he was unable to do so.
He had already paid ¢30 million in advance in December 2022, and by April 28, 2023, he needed to make the first installment of the 60 million balance due.
However, he could only afford to pay ¥5 million. He was given until July 4th, 2022, to sell his belongings and give the state ¢55 million. This was in May. This deadline passed without any money being received.
The state next asked the court for a prison sentence that would comply with the conditions of the agreement.
At the convict’s request, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour postponed the hearing on the motion to impose a custodial sentence.
Charged with 23 counts of conspiracy, William Ato Essien, Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor, and Tetteh Nettey, a former managing director of Essien’s company MC Management Service, are accused of stealing from the ¢620 million liquidity support that the Bank of Ghana (BoG) provided to the bank so that it could pay off its maturing debt.
The prosecution claims that the accused formed many bank accounts with Capital Bank, via which the ¥620 million BoG liquidity support was sent, and that additional funds were transported to Ato Essien in jute bags.