Thieves must cough up loot – Kofi Bentil defends state use of ‘settlement’ in Ato Essien case
Kofi Bentil, Senior Vice President of IMANI Africa, has defended the state’s resort to entering a settlement with founder of Capital Bank, William Ato Essien, in the matter of the collapse of the bank.
Bentil holds that Section 35 of the Courts Act that deals with settlement between the state and accused persons was important to the extent that it allowed for the state to retrieve embezzled funds.
He argued on the December 3 edition of Joy FM’s Newsfile programme that there are instances that people steal monies and go to jail only to return and enjoy their loot.
“There is good reason in philosophy, in what is proper and practical for us to have a Section 35, because there are people who actually steal state money and want to go to jail for five, even ten years, come back and enjoy it,” he submitted.
He disagreed with the High Court judge sitting on the Ato Essien case when the judge averred on December 1 that Section 35 seemingly encouraged crime relative to persons engaged in financial crimes finding a route to keep some of their loot.
“Yes I disagree with him because Section 35 is a very good provision for those of us who are in policy, who look at what goes on in this country, and the millions that we lose and the money we don’t recover. You see, over the decades, over the years people have come to realize that indeed without 35 it is lucrative rather to steal.
“So indeed the argument is counterproductive against what was said that because of (section) 35 people are going to steal, it is without 35 that people steal. And we’ve seen some, I’ve seen some, I don’t want to go into the details.
“The point here is that with 35 you know that if you steal you can be asked to cough up the money and in this particular case if you go through the numbers what is being coughed up is quite substantial given what is being admitted,” he explained.
What does Article 35 of the Courts Act says:
Section 35 of the Courts Act, says, “Where a person is charged with an offence before the High Court or a Regional Tribunal, the commission of which has caused economic loss, harm, or damage to the State or any state agency, the accused may inform the prosecutor whether the accused admits the offence and is willing to offer compensation or make restitution and reparation for the loss, harm, or damage caused.”
On December 1 when Justice Eric Kyei Baffour was ready to deliver judgement on the Ato Essien case, the state informed the court that it had reached a settlement where the accused was to repay a total of GHC90 million cedis to the state.
The state relied on Section 35 of the Courts Act but the judge in comments before agreeing to adjourn the reading of his judgment said the route the state had resorted to seems to one that may be making crimes attractive.
Justice Kyei Baffour went on to reject the terms of settlements reached between state prosecutors and Ato Essien.
According to court records, the Judge disagreed with the use of Section 35 of the Courts Act to reach a settlement agreement, explaining why it does not apply to the instant case.
Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, the deputy Attorney General on the same programme explained that the AG’s office was ready to abide by whatever decision the court arrived at but also that the state was not compromised in agreeing to a settlement.