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Ex-MASLOC Boss, Operations Manager face judgement on April 16

A High Court in Accra has set April 16, 2024, to deliver its judgement in the trial of ‘runaway’ former Chief Executive Officer of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Sedina Tamakloe Attionu, and an interdicted Operations Manager of the Centre, Daniel Axim.

The court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, has subsequently given the Office of the Attorney General and defence lawyers up to March 22, 2024, to file their written addresses.

The two are before the court facing a combined 78 charges including conspiracy, willfully causing financial loss to the state, stealing, and causing loss to public property, among others.

Madam Attionu is currently on the run following her arraignment for causing financial loss to the state.

She failed to return to Ghana to face trial when she was granted leave by the court to travel to the United States for a medical checkup.

Charges

Madam Attionu and Mr Axim are facing 78 counts of conspiracy, stealing, unauthorised commitment resulting in a financial obligation for the government, improper payment, money laundering and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They allegedly stole a total of GH¢3,198,280 while at MASLOC and willfully caused a GH¢1,973,780 financial loss to the state.

Again, Ms. Attionu and her accomplice, according to the facts, while in charge at MASLOC made unauthorised commitments resulting in financial obligations for the government to the tune of GH¢61,735,832.50.

The charges against the two also include GH¢22,158,118.85 loss to public property and improper payment of GH¢273,743.66 as well as money laundering of GH¢3,704,380.

Trial in Absentia

The court on February 24, 2023, granted an application by the prosecution to conduct the trial in the absence of Ms. Attionu after she fled to the United States in 2021 and has since refused to return for the trial.

The court, prior to that, 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 sureties for.

Prosecution’s Case

The prosecution led by Stella Ohene Appiah and Winifred Sarpong, both Principal State Attorneys, called four witnesses to prove its case against Ms. Attionu who, according to court documents, bloated the unit price of Samsung mobile phones purchased by MASLOC and some buses thereby making them too expensive for driver unions to purchase from the company.

Other allegations against the accused indicate that Ms Attionu failed to return GH¢500,000 that MASLOC invested in ‘Obaatanpa’, which was later withdrawn due to the high-interest demand.

According to the state, investigations further revealed that in April 2016, Ms Attionu obtained approval from the MASLOC Board to utilise GH¢1,706,000 of MASLOC funds for a countrywide sensitisation and monitoring programme for 85,300 beneficiaries of MASLOC loans.

Each of the targeted 85,300 beneficiaries was to receive GH¢20 to cover transportation and refreshment.

“Between April and December 2016, upon the authority of the 1st accused person, a total sum of GH¢1,816,000 withdrawn in tranches was received by the 1st and 2nd accused persons even though approval had been given by the MASLOC Board for a sum of GH¢1,706,000.

“Again, 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 facts sheet said.

The former MASLOC boss has also been accused of diverting GH¢579,800 out of GH¢1,465,035 support by the government for victims of the Kantamanto Market fire disaster in 2013.

Defence

The court on July 31, 2023, ordered the accused persons to open their defence after holding that the prosecution had established a case against them.

Madam Attionu’s continuous failure to return to Ghana means she could not open her defence.

Mr. Axim, on February 5, 2024, opened his defence and averred that he has never conspired with Madam Attionu to steal, or stolen any money from MASLOC as contained in the charges.

He denied all the 55 charges levelled against him, claiming that he was aware the Auditor General has not conducted any auditing into the activities of MASLOC, “and for that matter, I have never been surcharged for any wrongdoing about the implementation of any of the projects of MASLOC.

“At the same time I do not have the power as the head of operations to arrest a vehicle for non-payment of a loan facility, as the CEO will be instructed to ask me to release the vehicle with apology to the owner or risk dismissal,” Mr. Axim said.

Mr. Axim also claims it appears to him MASLOC is a ‘Father Christmas’ at the discretion of the political head, adding that a Minister of State can minute on a piece of complementary card to him through the CEO for a loan and he must comply.

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