We are not guilty – Duffuor, Asiama, Amoabeng, others deny collapsing banks

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A former Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor; a former Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Johnson Pandit Asiama, and 10 others have denied playing any role that led to the collapse of two indigenous banks, uniBank and UT Bank.

When the 12 individuals appeared before the Accra High Court yesterday in two separate criminal cases, they pleaded not guilty to all the 110 charges levelled against them.

“Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty…” was the dominant sound in the courtroom as the accused persons took turns to deny all the charges.

Present in court was the Attorney-General (A-G), Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, who led a team of state lawyers to prosecute the accused persons.

Among the lawyers who showed up in court to defend the accused persons was Dr Dominic Ayine, a former Deputy A-G, who represented Dr Duffuor.

uniBank case

The A-G has accused Dr Duffuor, who was said to be a shareholder of uniBank, of contributing to the collapse of the bank by “dishonestly receiving” GH₵663.28 million from the bank.

It is also the case of the A-G that even though uniBank was in financial distress, Dr Asiama allegedly used his position as the Second Deputy Governor of the BoG to approve the transfer of GH¢300 million, which was an unsecure credit facility from uniBank to the Universal Merchant Bank (UMB).

Dr Asiama, Dr Duffuor and six others have been charged with 68 counts for the collapse of uniBank.

Dr Duffuor, who is also a former Governor of the BoG, has been charged with dishonestly receiving and money laundering, while Dr Asiama has been charged with wilfully causing financial loss to the state and contravention of the Bank of Ghana Act, 2002 (Act 612).

The six other accused persons in the collapse of uniBank are Dr Kwabena Duffuor II, a son of Dr Duffuor, who was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of uniBank; Ekow Nyarko Dadzie-Dennis, the Chief Operating Officer of the bank; Elsie Dansoa Kyereh, the Executive Head of Corporate Banking; Jeffery Amon, a Senior Relationship Manager; Kwadwo Opoku Okoh, the Financial Control Manager, and Benjamin Ofori, the Executive Head of Credit Risk at the bank.

They have been charged with various counts of fraudulent breach of trust, money laundering and conspiracy to commit crime.

Also facing charges over the collapse of uniBank is the entity HODA Holdings Limited, the majority shareholder of uniBank, which was said to be controlled by Dr Duffuor.

UT Bank case

With regard to the collapse of UT Bank, Dr Asiama, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, the Founder of UT Bank; Raymond Amanfu, a former Head of the Banking Supervision Department (BSD) of the BoG, and two others — Catherine Johnson, Head of Treasury, and Robert Kwesi Armah, the General Manager of Corporate Banking, both of UT Bank — had been charged.

UT Holdings, the parent company of UT Bank, which is said to be controlled by Amoabeng, was also charged over the collapse of the bank.

It is the case of the A-G that Amoabeng “dishonestly appropriated “more than GH¢100 million of depositors’ funds that were invested in the defunct UT Bank.

The A-G has accused Dr Asiama and Amanfu of also acting unlawfully and causing financial loss to the state.

The two have been charged with wilfully causing financial loss to the state for allegedly approving GH¢460 million in liquidity support, “without following prescribed mandatory conditions”.

“No payment was made for liquid support by the BoG,” the A-G stated in the facts accompanying the charge sheet.

Dismiss the charges

Apart from the accused persons pleading not guilty, Dr Ayine also urged the court to dismiss the charges levelled against them, describing them as “misconceived, erroneous and without any legal basis”.

According to counsel, there was no relationship of trust between the accused persons and the depositors of the banks, as had been presented by the A-G, and, therefore, it was wrong for the A-G to have charged the accused for breaching that trust.

The former Deputy A-G argued that by law, the relationship between a banker and a depositor was premised on contract and not trusteeship.

“This means that by law, no money was entrusted to any of the accused persons,” he argued.

He further argued that per law, Dr Duffuor, as a shareholder of uniBank, owed a fiduciary duty to the bank and not the depositors.

According to him, per Section 119 of the Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), the remedy for a breach of fiduciary duty of a shareholder was civil liabilities and not criminal liabilities.

“Take a look at the charges and dismiss them,” he appealed to the presiding judge, Justice Philip Bright Mensah.

In response, the A-G submitted that the comments by Dr Ayine were premature and that at the appropriate time her outfit would respond.

Bail

After a successful bail application by the defence lawyers, the court admitted all the accused persons to bail.

Dr Duffuor, Dr Asiama and the other six accused persons in the uniBank case were each admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢60 million, with three sureties, two to be justified.

As part of the bail conditions, the two sureties who must provide the justification must deposit proof of owning properties worth the bail sum that they had guaranteed.

Also, Justice Mensah ordered the accused persons to deposit their passports at the court’s registry.

With regard to the UT Bank case, the court granted Amoabeng, Amanfu and Armah to bail in the sum of GH¢60 million, with three sureties, two to be justified.

Dr Asiama was, however, granted a self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢60 million with regard to the UT Bank case.

According to the court, Dr Asiama was already on bail in the uniBank case and, therefore, it would be unfair to impose another stringent bail condition on him in the UT Bank case.

Ms Johnson was also granted bail in the sum of GH¢20 million, with three sureties, two to be justified.

As part of the bail conditions, all the accused persons must deposit their passports at the court registry.

Hearing of the uniBank case continues on March 24, 2020, while that of the UT Bank case will be on March 26, 2020

Revocation of licences

UniBank and UT Bank were part of the seven indigenous banks whose licences were revoked by the BoG in 2017 and 2018 after the central bank declared them insolvent.

The other banks were the BEIGE Bank, the Royal Bank, the Sovereign Bank, the Construction Bank and the Capital Bank.

The BoG allowed the state-owned bank, GCB Bank, to assume the reins of UT Bank and Capital Bank, after taking over their assets, in order to protect depositors’ funds.

The BoG merged the other five banks into one entity, known as the Consolidated Bank Ghana (CBG).

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