William Ato Essien opens defense in collapsed bank trial

William Ato Essien

William Ato Essien, former Chief Executive Officer of defunct Capital Bank, has finally opened his defense at an Accra High Court (Commercial Court Seven).

Essien, together with Fitsgerald Odonkor, then Managing Director of the Bank and Tettey Nettey, MC Management Services, a company, said to be owned by Essien, have been charged for allegedly stealing depositors’ funds leading to the collapse of the Bank.

Accused have denied conniving and stealing GHC620 million liquidity support offered by the Bank of Ghana to the defunct Capital Bank.

Led by his lawyer Mr. Baffour Gyawu Ashia Bonsu, Essien who gave his evidence in chief, told the Court that he was a businessman and a true entrepreneur.

Describing to the Court what he does, Essien in 12 minutes said he had been the talk of the drive of the Finance Minister, a risk taker and referred to himself as determined, a Ghanaian who believed that nation building cannot happen without the businessmen.

Accused said he was also a” destiny carrier who took things and transformed them into something”.

Essien earlier on through his lawyer wanted the Court to grant them adjournment because they were still negotiating with the Attorney General’s office in relation to arbitration.

According to Essien’s lawyer, his client was also unwell.

Mrs Marina Appiah Oppong, Chief State Attorney, told the Court that the proposal from Essien was in relation to GHS27.5 million used in business promotion.

The Chief State Attorney said no mention has been made in relation to the other charges.

According to her, Essien would still have to answer to the other charges.

The Court presided over by Mr Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, Court of Appeal Judge, sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, declined several appeals from other lawyer to give Essien last adjournment after which he would open his defense.

In his ruling, the Trial Judge said it was unable to accede to defense counsel’s invitation because of a number of reasons.

Firstly, the Court said the negotiations for which the parties were engaged in did not cover the whole charges for which Essien had been invited to open his defense.

It said even in an likely event of a successful negotiation, Essien might still have to open his defense in respect of 20 counts of charges.

“It will therefore do the Court no credit in the proper management if the trial was adjourned.

What then would have been the purpose of holding the trial in abeyance. When the accused is entitled to a trial within reasonable time as a constitutional rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

According to the Court, it had observed with profound dismay how defense lawyers who were to defend the rights of accused persons, were interested in violating these constitutional rights of their own clients to be tried within a reasonable time.

Secondly, the court held that it gave indication at the last sitting that notwithstanding the stage at which negotiation had reached, Essien was to psyche his mind and prepare adequately to open his defense on November 4, this year.

Additionally, the Court said it was being told that Essien was not well and the Court being a court of record had not been given any evidence whatsoever.

“There is no evidence compelling enough to show that Essien is not in the position to talk. For these reasons, I invite first accused person to open his defense.

The matter has been adjourned to November 11.

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