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Vish Ashiagbor testifies in Capital Bank trial

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Vish Ashiagbor

Prosecution in the trial involving William Ato Essien, Founder of the defunct Capital Bank, has presented Mr Vish Ashiagbor, a Chartered Accountant and the Director of Pricewaterhouse Copers (PwC) Ghana Limited, as a witness.

The witness, who has worked for the PwC for 19 years, with the assistance of the prosecution, presented his witness statement, which the court had gone through with the lawyers during the case management and with the consent of all the parties, and was agreed that the witness would be relying on same during trial.

Same was also adopted as his evidence in chief and was read to the hearing of the court.

Mr Ashiagbor told the court that the Bank of Ghana (BoG) revoked the licence of Capital Bank and appointed him and one Eric Asase as Joint Receivers for the purposes of winding up the work of the bank.

They discovered three major things, which were that out of GH¢600 million received by the bank from BoG, 25.5 per cent was paid to the director, GH¢120 million was utilised as liquidity support, and some invoices rediscounted.

He said Capital Bank approved some monies for some companies adding that GH¢17 million was transferred to the account of the fourth accused person, Kate Quartey Papafio at Cal Bank, which she transferred back to Capital Bank.

Mr Ashiagbor said in August 2017, Kate went to the BoG to withdraw the amount but was prevented. She wrote again in September 2017 to the bank for the said amount to be paid.

The witness said he later wrote to Kate on October 19, 2017, to show the proof of claim adding that they noticed her act was part of the financial reengineering scheme of the bank.

During cross examination by Mr Thaddeus Sory, Counsel for Ato Essien, the witness confirmed to tendering a report by PwC on its investigation on suspicious transactions by Capital Bank.

He said PwC was a corporate entity and the report was prepared pursuant to the provision of section 126(3A) of Act 920, which required the joint receivers to report at the BoG.

When asked whether by virtue of the Act, PwC was not appointed by BoG as joint receivers of the bank and therefore had no legal mandate to prepare the report for the BoG, the witness answered that the BoG appointed them as joint receivers and the Act also permitted them to engage the services of the providers in the course of their work.

He further explained that the institution could not be appointed as a receiver, adding; “My understanding is that the law requires the receiver to be a natural person than an institution”.

Mr Ashiagbor said under that same Act, as joint receivers, they carried out their statutory functions under the guidelines of the BoG, and informed it in writing about their intentions to appoint their own institutions to carry out functions relating to joint receivership, which was approved.

He, however, disagreed with the counsel that the appointment of PwC to carry out functions relating to receivership was improper and a clear case of conflict of interest.

When asked whether the emphasis of paragraph 11 of the witness statement was the result of investigations into suspicious transactions relating to capital bank; the witness answered in the affirmative.

He said one objective of the report was that in executing their mandate as joint receivers, under Section 126 of the Act, they were required to identify and investigate suspicious transactions, but Section 132 refers to the receivers’ power to set aside certain transactions.

When asked why the report did not disclose any of the circumstances listed in Section 132 of the Act, the witness said together with the obligation that the joint receivers had, they had to draw the BoG’s attention to any suspicious transactions they identified in the course of their work.

Mr Sory asked why they referred to the transaction as ‘suspicious’ even when they had concluded their report.

Responding, Mr Ashiagbor explained that they completed their report and identified the transaction as suspicious, the reason they informed the BoG and got the investigative bodies on board.

When asked whether per Section 137 of Act 930, the joint receivers were required to notify the BoG of the outcome of their investigation for it to liaise with the appropriate institutions to, among other things, prosecute the offenders to recover the company’s assets, he answered in the affirmative.

“My understanding is that if the joint receivers identify suspicious transactions, they report those to BOG and they then can refer to investigative bodies for further investigation,” he said.

“The report did not lie when it said that under section 137 the BoG would liaise on the basis of the outcome of the investigation to prosecute offenders.”

The witness also disagreed with the prosecution that they approached their statutory functions with bias and prejudice against officials of Capital Bank and their transactions.

He said there were many transactions that took place at the bank and the report focused on very few of them.

The case, at that point, was adjourned to July 16 for continuation of cross examination.

The court also ordered for the release of passports of Ato Essien, Kate Quartey Papafio and Tetteh Nettey to enable them to register for their new voter cards but are to return them later to the court.

Ato Essien is facing 26 counts of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering, while the rest are variously being held for abetment of crime. They have denied the charges.

Ato Essien, a Majority Shareholder of Capital Bank Limited, Tetteh Nettey, Managing Director of MC Management Services, a company established by Essien, and Fitzgerald Odonkor, a former Managing Director of Capital Bank, were admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢200 million each.

Kate Quartey Papafio, a businesswoman and Chief Executive Officer of Reroy Cables Company Limited, was admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢75 million.

The four accused persons are to provide four sureties each who are of good character and are of substance.

Source: GNA

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