By Malik Sullemana
Sedina Christine Tamakloe Attionu, the immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), has been granted GH¢5 million bail with two sureties by the Financial Division “2” of the High Court, for alleged stealing and willfully causing financial loss to the state.
The accused pleaded not guilty to all 78 counts of conspiracy to commit crime, causing loss to public property, improper payment of public funds, contravention of Public Procurement Act, and money laundering.
Her alleged accomplice, Daniel Axim, an employee of the centre was also granted GH¢1 million with a surety.
In granting them bail, the court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe said all the sureties should not have criminal record or subject of criminal proceedings.
Consequently, Mrs Attionu and Mr Axim have been ordered to deposit their travel passports to the registrar of the court.
The case has been adjourned to March 4, 2019 for case management, but the prosecution has to file disclosures by February 15.
Mrs Attionu was represented by Kwodwo Dzakpasu, while Axim was represented by Adjei Mensah-Baffour.
Miss Gloria Afua Akuffo, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, prosecuting, said in 2017, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) conducted investigations into certain fraudulent disbursement of MASLOC funds involving the accused.
According to her, investigations revealed that in June 2014, MASLOC invested a sum of GH¢150,000 in Obaatanpa Micro-Finance Company Limited (Obaatanpa), a licensed Tier II microfinance company located at Ejura in the Ashanti Region.
The prosecutor said that the accused offered Obaatanpa a further investment of GH¢500,000 and as a result, a MASLOC Agricultural Development Bank (adb) cheque dated July 24, 2014 of GH¢500,000 was drawn in favour of Obaatanpa.
Prosecution stated that soon after Obaatanpa received the MASLOC cheque, Attionu informed the Board Chairman of Obaatanpa, that the investment of GH¢500,000 would attract 24 per cent interest but Obaatanpa decided to return the amount to MASLOC since the interest rate being demanded by the accused was too high and unprofitable for its business and issued a cheque in refund of the loan amount.
According to A-G, the former MASLOC boss, upon presentation of the cheque, declined to accept the cheque and demanded cash refund.
It said that a cash of GH¢500,000 was delivered to Madam Attionu by the Board Chairman of Obaatanpa on the night of August 28, 2014 at the Baatsona Total Filling Station located on the Spintex Road in Accra.
Miss Akuffo said in 2015, MASLOC made demands on Obaatanpa for the payment of interest on the principal investment of GH¢500,000.
But in response to the demands, Obaatanpa told MASLOC that the demand was unjustified.
Prosecution stated that in 2017, upon the assumption of office of a new Chief Executive of MASLOC, a demand notice was again sent to Obaatanpa for the payment of accrued interest on the same GH¢500,000 whereupon Obaatanpa once again informed MASLOC that the money had already been refunded since 2014.
She said investigations revealed that MASLOC had no record of the amount having been paid to it and that Mrs Attionu had appropriated the GH¢500,000.
Prosecutions said investigations revealed that in April 2016, the first accused person obtained approval of the MASLOC board to utilise the sum of GH¢1,706,000 of MASLOC funds for a countrywide sensitisation and monitoring programme for 85,300 beneficiaries of MASLOC loans.
She stated that each of the 85,300 beneficiaries was to receive GH¢20 to cover transportation and refreshment.
The court heard that between April and December 2016, upon the instructions of the Mrs Attionu, GH¢1,816,000 withdrawn in tranches, was received by the first and second accused even though approval had been given by the MASLOC Board for a sum of GH¢1,706,000.
She said investigations revealed that out of the sum of GH¢1,816,000 only GH¢1,300 was spent on refreshment for some beneficiaries in the Volta, Greater-Accra and Brong-Ahafo Regions only and that no programme whatsoever took place in the other seven regions.
The prosecutor said investigations also revealed that prior to the board’s approval, the first accuse also appropriated GH¢246,280 meant for training, sensitisation and financial literacy.
It is the case of the state that in 2013, following a fire disaster at the Kantamanto Market, the then President John Mahama directed MASLOC to provide an assistance of GH¢1,465,035 to victims of the fire disaster.
The money was, however, to be disbursed through DwadifoAdamfo Savings and Loans Company Limited (DwadifoAdamfo), but investigations showed that Mrs Attionu appropriated GH¢579,800 out of the sum of GH¢1,465,035.