The embattled CEO of the defunct Capital Bank, William Ato Essien who is facing criminal charges over his alleged misapplication of some GHS620 million from the Bank of Ghana, is claiming to be the originator of mobile money in Ghana.
He first made the claim on Good Evening Ghana on Metro TV but not much attention was given to it. But then he made the same claim under oath in court where he and three others are standing trial for some 26 charges.
Essien, who described himself as a “destiny and nation builder” said while his company used to be called First Capital Savings and Loans, he initiated a product called Cedipe (only a cedi) in 2011, which was intended for market women to save GHS1 per day, and he used sell them GHS1 vouchers which they scratched and saved via their mobile phones.
According to him, over time, the traders started saving more than just GHS1, so they changed the name from Cedipe to Speed Banking, and that is what has become mobile money which the MTN and the others are doing.
“Yes, it was my idea – I started what has today become mobile in this country and now all the telcos are doing it,” boasted on GEG and later in court.
But it is on record that, whereas First Capital’s Speed Banking product was launched in 2011, MTN had begun mobile money services way back in 2009 and Tigo also rolled out mobile money in 2010, followed by Airtel in 2011 and then Vodafone came into the market in 2015.
Meanwhile, Vodafone has always been the holder of the mobile money blueprint through its sister telco in Kenya, Safaricom, where mobile money was invented under the name, M-Pesa and has become the most popular digital finance product in that country.
M-Pesa was launched in 2007, two years before MTN Ghana launched mobile money and four years before First Capital Savings and Loans launched Speed Banking.
It would appear that, while Ato Essien seeks to save what is left of his integrity, after his failed attempt to avoid going for trial, he is now out to make wild claims just to put himself forward to the courts as a man with a heart for Ghana.
TechGH24 is aware that some telcos have handed over Ato Essien’s claim to be the originator of the mobile money idea to their lawyers for consideration and determination as to whether they would respond in the appropriate quarters or treat it with the contempt it deserves.
A private legal practitioner told TechGH24 that the telcos could go to court on the basis of amicus curiae and provide information to help the court determine if indeed Ato Essien committed perjury, adding that if that happens, and he is found guilty, he would have made things worse for himself.
Ato Essien, who described himself in court as a “destiny and national builder who lives and pants for the best of the country”, is facing trial, with three former executives of his defunct Capital Bank; Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor, Kate Quartey-Papafio, and Tetteh Nettey for 26 charges levelled against them.
The four persons alleged engaged in various illegal acts that led to the dissipation of the GH¢620 million liquidity support given to Capital Bank by the Bank of Ghana between June 2015 and November 2016.
It is the case of the Attorney-General that Ato Essien, with Rev. Odonkor’s aid, transferred the liquidity support to certain companies either controlled by him (Essien) or in which he had an interest.
It later emerged that Ato Essien has paid close to GHS1.4 million and also given out some 19 newly cleared cars from the port to the state.
Capital Bank was found to be owing GHc468 million, which was said to have arisen due to negligence from the Board.
It was part of the nine banks that collapsed over a 12-month period starting in August 2017.
The other banks were UT, which was taken over by the state-owned GCB Bank along with Capital Bank, Beige Bank, Sovereign Bank, Construction Bank, uniBank, and Royal Bank, all of which were consolidated into the Consolidated Bank of Ghana.