The immediate past Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Sedina Christine Tamakloe Attionu, has denied accusations by the Attorney-General (A-G) that she stole money belonging to the state and also wilfully caused financial loss to the state during her tenure.
On January 31, 2019, the A-G dragged Attionu to the Accra High Court with a case that she (Attionu) stole money and wilfully caused financial loss to the state to the tune of more than GH¢90 million when she was the boss of MASLOC from November 2013 to January 7, 2017.
But making her first appearance before the court yesterday, Attionu pleaded not guilty to all the 78 counts of stealing, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, causing loss to public property, improper payment of public funds, conspiracy, unlawful commitment resulting in a financial obligation for the government, money laundering and contravention of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).
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Daniel Axim, the Head of Operations of the southern sector of MASLOC, who has been accused by the A-G of conspiring with Attionu to steal from the state also pleaded not guilty.
At yesterday’s hearing, Mr Agbesi Kodzo Dzakpasu and Mr Agyei Mensah Baffour represented Attionu and Axim, respectively, as defence counsel, while the state was represented by the A-G, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo.
Based on a bail application by lawyers of the two accused, the court, presided over by Mrs Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, granted bail to Attionu and Axim.
Attionu was admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢5 million, with two sureties, while Axim was admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢1 million, with one surety.
Per the bail conditions, the sureties must be people of independent and sufficient means who do not have any criminal record or are not under any criminal investigations.
Also, Mrs Justice Asare-Botwe ordered the accused persons to deposit their passports at the court registry.
Meanwhile, the court directed the A-G to make disclosures to the accused by making prosecution documents in relation to the case available to them.
This is in compliance with a Supreme Court decision that made disclosures a must in all criminal trials.
According to the court, the A-G must make the documents available to the accused by February 15, 2019 and also file same at the court.
Hearing continues on March 4, 2019 for a case management conference.
NDC gurus in court
As in previous trials of officials of erstwhile administrations, supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and leading members of the party thronged the court in solidarity with Attionu.
They included a former Minister of Sports, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah; two former Attorneys-General, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu and Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, and a former Deputy Minister of Transport, Mrs Joyce Bawa Mogtari.
The A-G accused Attionu of embezzling GH¢500,000 that was paid by a company which benefitted from MASLOC support in 2014.
It is also the case of the A-G that in 2013, following a fire disaster at the Kantamanto Market, then President John Mahama directed MASLOC to provide assistance of GH¢1.46 million to victims of the disaster but Attionu embezzled part of the money.
The A-G further stated that Attionu inflated the price of certain items that MASLOC purchased during her tenure, and in some instances signed procurement contracts without approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
According to the A-G, a contract with Mac Autos to supply MASLOC with 350 vehicles was signed on December 6, 2016 without any approval from the PPA.
The vehicles, the A-G said, included Chevy Sparklite, Isuzu buses and Chevy Aveo, for which investigations had revealed that the actual retail price Mac Autos offered for the same model was far higher than the price on the open market.
Again, the A-G accused Attionu of inflating the price of 200 mobile phones that MASLOC bought for a project in November 2016.