The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF), Daniel Duku, in the erstwhile Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, and two former staff of the Fund have been convicted of stealing monies from the state by an Accra High Court.
The conviction comes after the accused persons admitted guilt and came to an agreement with the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department under Section 35 of the Courts Act to refund the stolen monies and pay restitutions and compensations to the state.
Per the agreement, Mr. Duku and Irene Anti Mensah, including her husband, Frank Aboagye Mensah, are to pay a total of GH¢18,544,802.13 to the state as refund, restitution and a fine by the court.
The accused persons are to refund the stolen monies to VCTF while the restitution and fines go to the state.
The accused persons are to make various initial deposits within seven days from yesterday and then pay the remaining amounts within three months or risk going to jail.
The agreement was struck between lawyers for the accused persons, namely Addo Atuah for Mr. Duku and Nana Yaa Nartey for the husband and wife, and the prosecution led by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, and assisted by Frances Mullen Ansah, a Chief State Attorney, Winifred Sarpong, a Principal State Attorney and Hilda Craig, a Senior State Attorney.
Mr. Duku, Irene and Frank are among six persons, including former National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Keta, are standing trial for allegedly misappropriating funds in excess of GH¢42 million belonging to the VCTF, a state agency.
Per the fact of the case, the accused persons allegedly used the names of a number of companies belonging to other persons to obtain loans without the knowledge, permission and consent of the owners.
However, just as full trial was getting set, Mr. Duku, Irene and Frank reached an agreement with the AG’s Department under Section 35 of the Courts Act to refund their stolen monies to the state.
The court, presided over by Justice Antony Oppong, a Court of Appeal judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, initially rejected the deal stating that the court was not pleased with the terms, especially when the accused persons were expected to pay the money in instalments and not at a go.
But Mr. Addo Atuah, representing Mr. Duku, filed an application for review and the court reviewed its own decision after the lawyer moved the motion and made a compelling case which the AG’s Department was not opposed to it.
Daniel Duku was facing charges including willfully causing financial loss to the state, stealing, money laundering and issuance of false cheques contrary to Section 313A (1) (b) of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
Irene Anti Mensah was charged with abetment of crime to willfully cause financial loss to the state, abetment to defraud by false pretence and conspiracy to steal.
Frank Aboagye Mensah, on the other hand, was charged with defrauding by false pretence, conspiracy to steal, stealing and money laundering.
The accused persons initially pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against them at the beginning of the trial and were all granted bail by the court.
But the court had to take their plea again after they decided to come under Section 35 of the Courts Act to refund the stolen funds which is an admission of guilt of the charges levelled against them.
Per the terms of the agreement between the accused persons and the AG’s Department, Mr. Duku is to pay GH¢15 million made up of the principal money he stole from VCTF and the profit that had accrued on the stolen money over time.
He is also to refund $26,063.00 which he took from the Fund for an official trip which he never attended.
Besides, the court ordered him to pay a fine of GH¢500,000 to the state. He is to make an initial payment of GH¢1 million and another $26,063.00 to VCTF within seven days.
He has three months within which to pay the entire amount.
Again, two out of 10 of his properties which were procured using stolen funds and were therefore frozen are to be released for him to sell to raise money to settle the debt while the others are to remain frozen.
Irene, on the other hand, is to pay a total of GH¢1,500,000 as the stolen funds and accrued profit and a fine of GH¢100,000.
She was ordered to, within seven days from yesterday, make an initial deposit of GH¢300,000 to VCTF which she told the court was ready.
She is to pay the rest in three instalments of GH¢200,000 by July 22, GH¢500,000 by August 22 and another GH¢500,000 by September 22, 2020.
Frank, on the other hand, will refund a total of GH¢1,195,000 and another fine of GH¢100,000.
He is to make an initial payment of GH¢200,000 which must be done within seven days of yesterday and pay the rest within three months.
He was ordered to pay GH¢200,000 by July 22, GH¢350,000 by August 22 and GH¢445,000 by September 22, 2020.
Per the agreement, the accused persons agreed that a default in the payment of the reparation and restitution or failure to fulfill a condition imposed on them by the court shall make the outstanding amount due and payable.
A failure to pay the entire amount by the agreed date gives the court the liberty to sentence the accused persons to prison custody.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak