It was a sight to behold as emotions got the better part of former Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Daniel Axim, who is standing trial together with ‘absconded’ Christine Sedinam Tamakloe Ationu for allegedly causing financial loss to the State.
Daniel Axim, upon mental examination at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, has been declared sound and fit to stand trial after his lawyer Augustines Obour had urged the Court to refer him for Psychiatric examination.
Following the outcome of the medical evaluation, Prosecution had indicated continuing with the trial after the Court had ordered him and the ‘absconded’ former Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Attionu to open their defence.
However, in Court on Thursday, December 14, 2023, when the case was called, lawyer for the 2nd accused (Daniel Axim), Augustines Obuor was absent.
Asked by the Court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, the whereabouts of his lawyer, Daniel Exim (2nd accused) said, his lawyer had indicated to him he was opting out of the case.
Asked if he had paid his lawyer his legal fees, the accused person said, he had long before paid all the legal fees to his lawyer.
“As has been my usual practice, a day before the case, I will call him,” he told the Court.
“He told me that he is opting out of the case. I was very disturbed so I pleaded with him that with my current financial status, I cannot afford another lawyer,” emotionally stricken Daniel Axim said as he broke down in tears while searching for his handkerchief to wipe his tears.
Asked by Justice Asare-Botwe, a Justice of the Court of Appeal who is presiding over the case as an additional High Court judge, if he had paid his legal fees to his lawyer, the second accused responded in the affirmative.
“My Lady, I have finished payment of whatever he (Lawyer) charged me,” adding, “I told him I will come and see him to see whatever reasons so I will plead with him so he comes back.”
Justice Asare-Botwe moments after hearing the worrying story wondered why a lawyer will abandon his client after taking his legal fees in full.
The Judge said, by the rules of the Court, Counsel for the accused cannot opt out of the case without the Court formerly discharging him.
“By our ethical rules you (lawyer) cannot collect someone’s (accused) money in full according to you (Daniel Axim)” and decide not to represent his client.
The Court of Appeal judge said, “That’s is unethical and as for me I will not allow this to pass me by.”
“Why according to you (Daniel Axim), you have paid the lawyer in full and the lawyer has not come to the Court to be discharged only to decide to say he is out of the case?” Justice Asare-Botwe wondered.
The judge said, for a lawyer to withdraw his services he ought to have come to the Court with an application for the Court to discharge him upon hearing the reasons.
“I will not be like others… A lot of my colleagues see these things and do nothing about them, as for me, If I see something wrong I say it and report,” Justice Asare-Botwe stated emphatically.
The Court said, should what the accused told the Court be anything to go by, the lawyer would be reported to the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council for action.
Justice Asare-Botwe who was visibly furious wondered why a case of this nature would have still been in Court for four years.
“How can I see through this as a professional person like (Mr Axim) been on interdiction be in Court for four years?”
“….What is wrong that an accused person who is presumed innocent be in court for four years when he is on half salary? ….Even those on full salary cannot bear this,” she said while acknowledging the tears of the Accused person in Court.
Justice Asare-Botwe said per regulations, no lawyer has the right to withdraw his services when he had been fully paid by his client as per the story of Daniel Axim.
She said a lawyer can only withdraw from a case upon permission by the court.
Justice Asare-Botwe while adjourning the case to January 24, next year, warmed that, should Lawyer Obuor fail to do the needful, she will personally direct the accused to file a Complaint at the General Legal Council’s Disciplinary Committee against him.
EIB Network’s Legal Affairs Correspondent, Murtala Inusah who was in Court reports that the Court has directed Daniel Axim (2nd accused) to the Legal Aid Commission to secure himself a lawyer if Mr Obour insisted on not representing him.
Daniel Axim, the former Operations Manager of MASLOC, and “absconded” Mrs. Attionu have been charged with eighty counts of stealing, causing financial loss to the state, causing loss to public property, improper payment of public funds, unauthorised commitment resulting in financial obligation for the government, money laundering and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have pleaded not guilty and admitted to bail while the prosecution has closed its case after calling four witnesses.
Mrs Tamakloe Attionu has since last year been declared absconded by the Court after failing to appear in Court.
The case has been adjourned to January 24, 2024.