In a significant legal development, Ato Essien, the former Chief Executive Officer of the defunct Capital Bank, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour.
This verdict comes as a consequence of the failure of Ato Essien to fulfill his commitment to pay the state GH¢90 million, despite multiple extensions granted to him since December 2022. Ato Essien pleaded guilty to 16 counts of stealing, money laundering, and conspiracy to steal, all related to his role in the collapse of Capital Bank. To reach a settlement, he entered into a plea bargain with the state under section 35(7) of the courts ACT 459. Under the terms of this agreement, Mr. Essien was expected to pay GH¢90 million. He made an initial payment of GH¢30 million on December 13. The remaining GH¢60 million was to be paid in three equal installments in 2023. This included GH¢20 million by April 28, another GH¢20 million by August 31, and the final GH¢20 million by December 15, 2023.
However, a crucial condition of this agreement was that the court could impose a custodial sentence if any of the payment deadlines were missed. Unfortunately, as of April 28, Mr. Essien had not settled the entire GH¢20 million. The state filed an application on May 2, 2023, requesting a custodial sentence for Ato Essien. However, the presiding judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, granted him approximately six more months to meet his obligations. Between January and October 12, Ato Essien managed to pay only GH¢7 million in addition to the GH¢30 million previously paid. With GH¢53 million of the agreed sum still outstanding, the judge, having exhausted his patience, allowed the state’s application to proceed. Subsequently, upon hearing the application, the judge ruled that Ato Essien should serve 15 years in prison for his failure to meet the agreed payment terms. This verdict marks a significant turn in the ongoing legal saga involving the former CEO.