Sedina Tamakloe Attionu  — A former boss of the MASLOC
Sedina Tamakloe Attionu — A former boss of the MASLOC
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Former MASLOC boss jailed 10 years in absentia

The High Court in Accra yesterday sentenced a former boss of the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Sedina Tamakloe Attionu, and a former Operations Manager of the organisation, Daniel Axim, to 10 years and five years in prison respectively for causing financial loss of GH¢ 90 million to the state. 

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This was after the court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Court of Appeal judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, found the two guilty of 78 counts of causing financial loss to the state, stealing, conspiracy to steal, money laundering, and causing loss to public property in contravention of the public procurement law.

Integrity

Before passing the sentence, the presiding judge underscored the need for civil servants to be firm in their daily activities under political appointees, adding: “Fortunately for us, we don’t have a political leaning; even if you’re dismissed wrongly you can sue”.

She further called on parents to raise their children to have both education and integrity. “When you have an educated thief, it causes far more havoc than what somebody with AK 47 is doing, the kind of money we’re talking about (in this case) is too much.

“Those of you who are in public office, have mercy on the rest of us,” she said.  The presiding judge, therefore, directed the state to undertake forfeiture proceedings against Attionu.

Charges

On the charge of stealing, Attionu, who was tried in absentia, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Mr Axim, who sported a blue kaftan, was sentenced to five years in prison.

For the charge of conspiracy to wilfully cause financial loss to the state against the two, Attionu was sentenced to three years coupled with a GH¢ 36,000 fine while Mr Axim was slapped with a 12-month custodial sentence with a GH¢ 12,000 fine. In default of the fine, they will spend an additional jail term of 12 months.

For the charge of causing financial loss to the state, Attionu was again slapped with a two-year custodial sentence, in addition to a GH¢ 60,000 fine. On the charge of causing loss to public property and unauthorised commitment resulting in a financial obligation, she was sentenced to six months each.

Attionu was sentenced to two years and a GH¢ 12, 0000 fine. In default of the fine, she will spend 12 months in prison. For money laundering, Attionu was sentenced to three years imprisonment and was ordered to pay GH¢ 24,000 cedis, while Mr Axim was sentenced to two years in prison with a GH¢ 12,000 fine. In default, they will spend an extra 12 months in jail.

The sentences are to run concurrently.

Even though Attionu was absent, the court relied on her caution statement and cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses by her lawyer to determine her fate. Before sentencing the accused persons, the judge took her time to explain the elements required to prove a case against the accused persons, while assessing the defence put up by Axim, as well as Attionu’s cautioned statement. 

Case

It was the case of the prosecution, led by a Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, that the two stole GH¢3.19 million while at MASLOC and willfully caused GH¢1.97 million financial loss to the state.

Again, they were accused of making unauthorised commitments, resulting in financial obligations for the government to the tune of GH¢61.74 million. The charges against the two included GH¢22.15 million loss of public property, improper payment of GH¢273,743 and laundering of GH¢3.7 million.

For instance, the prosecution said in April 2016, Attionu obtained approval from the MASLOC Board to utilise a sum of GH¢1,706,000 of MASLOC funds for a countrywide sensitisation and monitoring programme for 85,300 beneficiaries of MASLOC loans.

It said investigations revealed that out of the sum of GH¢1,816,000, only GH¢1,300 was spent on refreshments for some beneficiaries in the Volta, Greater Accra and Brong-Ahafo regions and that no programme whatsoever took place in the other seven regions.

Again in 2013, it added that following a fire disaster at the Kantamanto Market, the then President, John Mahama, directed MASLOC to assist GH¢1,465,035 to victims of the fire disaster.

It said investigations revealed that the MASLOC boss appropriated GH¢579,800 out of the total sum of GH¢1,465,035.

MASLOC

MASLOC is a department under the presidency responsible for implementing the government’s microfinance programmes targeted at reducing poverty. 

Defence

Attionu, in her cautioned statement, said she could not vouch for a letter requesting some of the funds she had been accused of stealing although the signature looked like hers.

On the workshop, she said in her caution statement that the workshops were held for the beneficiaries. However, it was the court’s view that she could not provide any evidence of attendance sheets, receipts from food suppliers, receipts from hotel reservations, photographs of beneficiaries, or oral evidence of just one person from the event.

“Some of the MASLOC heads in the regions where the sensitisation was held could not confirm that they were held,” she said. For Axim, his defence was that he was under an obligation to obey superior instructions.

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He told the court that he received only GH¢ 20,000 as gift from his Boss. Mr Axim added that there were instances where monies were handed over to Attionu without any documentation.

He further told the court that he risked losing his job if he had dared to challenge anyone, adding: “The environment makes it difficult to follow ethics to the letter”. Mr Axim acknowledged that he was the one in charge of starting the process by generating the memo and Attionu would approve same.

In all, 23 memos were raised, leading to the withdrawal of huge sums of money. Convicting Axim, the court arrived at a conclusion based on two principles – the concept of causation and the concept of superior orders.

After analysing the facts against the defence put up by the second accused, Justice Asare-Botwe concluded that Axim was a highly qualified professional who had a duty to perform.

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She said for nothing at all, the second accused person held an MBA in Petroleum Accounting but he continued to raise 23 memos, leading to the withdrawal of the huge sums of money all in the name of keeping his job.

“The fact that he was acting as a servant under a superior could not free him from criminal liability. Excuses about the ethical and political environment cannot serve as an excuse to save himself from liability.

She questioned Axim’s high qualification, adding: “This court will be setting a bad precedence if it overlooks this grave illegality on the part of the second accused.” t

Satisfied

Speaking to journalists after the proceedings, a Deputy Attorney-General, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, commended the decision and gave an assurance that Attionu would be brought back to the country to serve her sentence.

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“We have started the process but with this judgment, it’s going to speed up the process. You know in Ghana, we have various laws. You can choose to stay away but so far as we have laws for which you can extract from other countries to Ghana in case there is a judgment against you like this one, be rest assured that she will be brought down to face judgment,” he stated.

Trial in absentia

On February 24, 2023, the court granted an application by the prosecution to conduct the trial in the absence of Attionu after the court allowed her to go to the United States in 2021 for medical attention, but she has since not returned.

Prior to the trial in absentia, the court had on January 24, 2023, ordered the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Alex Mould, and actor, Gavivina Tamakloe, to pay the GH¢5 million bail bond to the state for their failure to produce the accused person whom they stood as sureties for.

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