Senior Vice President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil, has disagreed with Justice Eric Kyei Baffour’s suggestion that Section 35 of the Courts Act may be making crimes attractive.
According to him, the opposite of that assertion is true.
Justice Eric Kyei Baffour on December 1, rejected the terms of settlements reached between state prosecutors and the founder of Capital Bank, William Ato Essien.
Mr. Essien, per the proposed settlement, was to pay GH₵90 million in total and GH₵60 million in an agreed installment settlement with the state.
However, the presiding Judge who was ready with his judgement said the state appears to have been compromised.
He said the prosecutors’ use of Section 35 of the Courts Act to reach a settlement agreement with the accused does not apply to the instant case, and such settlements make crimes attractive.
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.”
Reacting to Justice Kyei Baffour’s statement, Kofi Bentil stated that unlike the Judge’s suggestion, Section 35 was making crimes in the country unattractive.
He said, “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 explained that while custodial sentences only delay convicted persons from enjoying their stolen wealth, Section 35 on the other hand, forces them to cough out the money.
“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 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.
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