Dr Ato Essien a highly respected and successful businessman in Ghana, known for his philanthropy and charitable efforts. However, his reputation was shattered when he was accused of stealing GH₵620 million from his company.
The shocking discovery shocked the nation and left many wondering how someone who had so much could throw it all away.
The once celebrated Entrepreneur and Founder of defunct Capital Bank,William Ato Essien, and two others were accused of participating in a 23-count conspiracy to steal GH₵620 million in liquidity support that the Bank of Ghana (BoG) provided to the bank to help it pay off its maturing debt.
This action which led to the collapse of the once celebrated Capital Bank
The accused opened a number of bank accounts with Capital Bank, and according to the prosecution, through which the GH₵620 million BoG liquidity support was transferred, while others were transported in huge jute bags to Ato Essien.
Profile of william Ato Forson
William Ato Essien is a self-made banker, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing from central university college. Ato Essien acquired his wealth when he set up First Capital Plus (FCP) in 2009, the company went on to grow as a microfinance with a deposit base of GHC 36.06 million and with a total asset size of GHC 47.18 million by the end of 2010.
In 2013, First Capital Plus Bank had a deposit base of GHC 211.11 million and total assets of GHC 286.80 million. According to the Bank of Ghana, FCP has a market share of 16% of the advances of savings and loans companies and 19% of the sector’s total assets.
Ato Essien managed to grow FCP within a few years of operating by increasing the financial firm’s base deposit and assets whilst consequently qualifying FCP to acquire a universal banking license; the bank was given a full license on 4 December 2013 and became officially known as First Capital Plus (FCP) Bank.
In 2011 William Ato Essien was named one of the wealthiest men in Ghana with an estimated net worth of about $1.9 billion after acquiring a 24% stake in Gye Nyame Resources in Zimbabwe. The now-defunct diamond mine has been closed down on environmental grounds and bad business practices.
The Crime (Background to the Theft )
The 1st accused person, William Ato Essien was the majority shareholder of Capital Bank Limited (Capital Bank), a wholly-owned Ghanaian bank which previously operated as a microfinance company.
The 2nd accused person, Tetteh Nettey, was the Managing Director of MC of Management Service, a company established by the 1st accused person purposely for the promotion of the incorporation of Sovereign Bank, another brainchild of the 1st accused person.
The 3rd accused person, Fitzgerald Odonkor, was the Managing Director of Capital Bank from June 2015 to August 2017. The 4th accused person, Kate Quartey-Papafio is a businesswoman and Chief Executive Officer of Reroy Cables Company Limited.
Between June 2015 and November 2016, pursuant to an application by Capital Bank, the Bank of Ghana (BOG) provided a total sum of GHS 620 million as liquidity support to Capital Bank to enable it to meet its capital adequacy ratio and to enable it to service its maturing debt obligations.
In October 2015, the 1st accused person, aided by the 3rd accused person, caused a transfer of a sum of GHS 120 million of the liquidity support amount to All Time Capital Limited (All Time), investment management and advisory firm.
At the instance of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd accused persons, ¢100 million of the ¢120 million which had been transferred to All Time, was further transferred to MC Management Services while ¢20 million of the amount of ¢120 million was transferred to Pronto Construction and Supplies Limited (Pronto Construction).
The sum of GHS 100 million which was transferred to MC Management Services was subsequently represented by the 2nd accused person to BOG as initial Capital of Sovereign Bank while the ¢20 million that was transferred to Pronto Construction was used by the Managing Director of Pronto Construction, ostensibly to purchase shares in Capital Bank.
Again, at the instance of the 1st and 3rd accused persons, ¢65 million out of the BOG liquidity support of ¢620 million was transferred to Nordea Capital Limited described as an investment bank. of the amount of ¢65 million, the 1st accused person, aided by the 3rd accused person, caused ¢30 million to be transferred to MC Management
Services which were represented to BOG as an additional initial capital of Sovereign Bank by the 2nd accused person.
With the aid of the 3rd accused person, the remaining ¢35 million of the ¢65 million was paid into a Fidelity Bank account of Breitling Services, a company also established by the 1st accused person. At the request of the 1st accused person, the amount of ¢35 million which was transferred into the account of Breitling Services was subsequently transferred to Capital Africa Group, a company owned by the 1st accused person.
The total amount of ¢130 million which was represented as initial capital of Sovereign Bank was eventually channelled by the 1st and 2nd accused persons into Capital Africa Group, the 1st accused person’s company, less bank charges. The monies transferred into Capital Africa Group was eventually dissipated by the 1st and 2nd accused persons.
Between June 2015 and October 2016, the 1st accused person, with the support of the 3rd accused person, appropriated a total of GHS 27.5 million of the liquidity support which was conveyed in jute bags to the 1st accused person and purportedly used as payment for business promotion.
In June 2017, in furtherance of the conversion of portions of the ¢620 million liquidity support, the 1st accused person caused a sum of GHS100 million to be paid into a Capital Bank account held by the Managing Director of the following three companies; Maripoma Enterprise Limited, Hardwick Limited and Volta Impex Enterprise Limited opened purposely to receive the amount. The ¢100 million was to be used by the Managing Director of the three companies ostensibly as payment for 30% shares in Capital Bank.
As a cover-up of the conversion, the 1st accused person prevailed on the Managing Director of the companies to submit copies of Government Payment Certificates of the three (3) companies valued at ¢135 million to be discounted to ¢105 million by Capital Bank, to be used as collateral for the purported loan of ¢100 million.
The 1st accused person then caused ¢70 million out of the GHS 100 million that had been previously paid into the Managing Director’s account at Capital Bank, to be transferred to the 4th accused person’s account with Cal Bank Limited.
The 1st and 4th accused persons subsequently caused the amount of ¢70 million in the Cal Bank account of the 4th accused person to be further transferred into a personal account of the 4th accused person purposely opened at Capital Bank to receive the amount.
Sometime in 2017 after Capital Bank had gone into receivership, the 4th accused person even though fully aware that Capital bank had gone into liquidation, attempted to withdraw the whole amount of ¢70 million which had been lodged in her personal account with Capital Bank but was however prevented from doing so by the receivers.
The Accra High Court in 2022 accepted an agreement for William Ato Essien, the founder of the defunct Capital Bank, to pay GH¢90 million to the state as restitution.
As part of the agreement, Essien who was standing trial for stealing GH¢192.5m of depositors fund, had already paid GH¢30m to the state and was to pay the remaining GH¢60m in GH¢20m three instalments by the close of 2023.
Justice Kyei Baffour , the judge who initially rejected the agreement, made a u-turn to accept for Ato Essien to pay in instalments as it was explained to him that the state had already recovered GH¢101.2m of the GH¢192.5m with the remaining amount being GH¢92.5m
Also, it came out that an amount of GH¢35m was repeated twice on the charge sheet, meaning Ato Essien actually has GH¢57.5m to pay, meaning the GH¢90m being paid by him was in excess of GH¢32m, which will be interest on the amount to the state.
William Ato Forson was to face custodial sentence if money was not paid as scheduled
The Plea For Mercy
In january 29 2023 William Ato Forson in an appeal ask the court not to jail him if he fails to pay the remaining 20 million cedis
He attributed this to the current Economic circumstances in the country and he further asked the court to give him the opportunity to explain why he’s has defaulted
The accused is likely to face custodial sentence if promise is not honoured
This tragic tale serves as a cautionary lesson about the dangers of greed and corruption. It highlights the importance of ethics, morality, and personal responsibility.
When individuals put their own selfish desires above the interests of others, they not only hurt themselves but also those around them. In Essien’s case, his actions not only ruined his reputation and business but also affected the lives of his employees, colleagues, and the communities he had once served.
The consequences of criminal behaviour can be far-reaching and devastating.
In Ato Essien’s case, he could be jailed or face a long legal battle. He has also lost his wealth and status and is now begging the court for forgiveness. This serves as a reminder that there is no escape from the consequences of our actions.
In conclusion, the tale of Dr Ato Essien serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of ethics, morality, and personal responsibility. We must all strive to make the right choices, regardless of the consequences, and do what is right and just, not only for ourselves but also for those around us.