Ghana's legal system is a joke! - Legal brains react as Ato Essien escapes prison

The decision by the High Court in Accra to accept the GH¢90 million repayment terms by the embattled founder of now-defunct Capital Bank, Ato Essien has angered Ghanaians, with legal brains saying the development makes crime attractive.

Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh and Professor, Kwaku Asare

US-based Ghanaian professor, Kwaku Asare, in reaction to the court’s decision on his Facebook page, said the legal system favours the rich and discriminates against the poor.

“No jail term for stealing ¢100M of depositors’ funds but 10 years jail term for stealing ¢100 from a depositor’s purse,” the revered legal luminary lamented.

His colleague, another respected constitutional lawyer, professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, who happens to be the Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD), agreed with him, saying the country’s legal system is not worth its salt.


“A joke of a legal system we have. Kai,” prof Prempeh wrote on Facebook in reaction to prof Asare’s post.

Many Ghanaians have been reacting to the court’s decision, lamenting how a petty thief would have been sentenced to many years of imprisonment, but a wealthy person who has admitted to stealing millions of taxpayers’ money has managed to escape jail.

On Tuesday, December 13, the court reviewed the arguments of the parties and accepted the restitution deal.

Last week, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour disagreed with the settlement deal between state prosecutors and Mr Ato Essien. The judge was of the view that the amount agreed on was not enough. He adjourned that case to today and asked the parties to appear before the court with the legal basis of the terms of the agreement.


In court on Tuesday, December 13, Deputy Attorney General Alfred Tuah Yeboah argued that the funds were state funds as the defunct capital bank has been taken over by the state and state funds expended to pay the monies of depositors.

On his part, Counsel of Ato Essien also justified the deal arguing that the state managed to get an extra GHS 30 million in addition to the GHS 56 million ‘outstanding money’ Ato Essien agreed to have stolen.

After hearing the arguments of the parties, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour accepted the settlement deal.

The accused has since pleaded guilty to the charges of stealing and money laundering.

Ato Essien and two others have been on trial for the past three years for their involvement in the collapse of Capital Bank. The prosecution had also accused Mr Essien of misappropriating GH¢620 million liquidity support extended by the Bank of Ghana to help keep the bank afloat.


The prosecution and the accused in arriving at the agreement told the court they came under section 35 of the Courts Act, 1993, Act 459 (as amended).

Mr Essien is standing trial together with the former Managing Director of the Bank, Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor, and a former Managing Director of MC Management Service, Tetteh Nettey, also owned by Mr Ato Essien.

Together, they were tried on 23 counts of criminality, including conspiracy to steal and stealing in connection with the collapse of Capital Bank in 2017.

Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor and Tetteh Nettey have however been acquitted and discharged.


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