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10.07.2006 Crime & Punishment

Top Official Jailed Five Years For Theft

By Daily Graphic
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A former head of the Computer Services Division of the Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD), Kofi Atta Amenuvor, was last Friday sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Accra Fast Track High Court for stealing ¢2.6 billion belonging to the state.

Amenuvor, who forged signatures on 18 cheques and succeeded in withdrawing the money between January 2000 and July 2001 as salaries for staff and non-staff of the Ghana Education Service (GES) in the three northern regions, is also to refund the money after serving his sentence.

The moneys were cashed from the West Mamprusi Community Bank, with the assistance of two other accomplices.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice Yaw Appau, described the crime as “a very serious one because fidgeting with the government's chest and taking money that belongs to the state and all of us is very serious, even more than armed robbery”.

According to the court, there was no doubt that the cheques which were used to steal the money came from the Computer Services Division of the CAGD, where the convict was head.

The court held that Amenuvor was expected to raise doubts about witnesses in the trial who mentioned him as the originator of the crime but he did not do so.

It said the evidence before it was overwhelming because the cheques were bloated with the intent to steal, and although Amenuvor was not found with the forged cheques, there was overwhelming evidence that he gave them out to facilitate the commission of the crime.

Amenuvor was convicted on 18 counts of conspiracy and stealing and another 18 counts of forgery and possession of forged documents and was accordingly sentenced to four years each on the first 18 counts and one year each for the second 18 counts.

The sentences are to run concurrently.
The two accomplices, namely Abubakar Mohammed Amuda, an accounts officer of the GES in Yendi, and Prince Mahama Sagri, an accountant of the West Mamprusi Community Bank, earlier pleaded guilty to 54 of the 90 charges levelled against them.

The charges included conspiracy to commit crime, forgery of official documents, stealing, possessing forged documents and altering forged documents.

However, Amenuvor pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of ¢3 billion with two sureties to be justified, while Sagri and Amuda were granted bail in the sum of ¢200 million each with one surety each to be justified.

In the course of the trial, Sagri died, while Amuda was used as a prosecution witness. According to the prosecution, the accused persons forged signatures on 18 cheques and succeeded in withdrawing the money between January 2000 and July 2001 as salaries for staff and non-staff of the GES in the three northern regions.

The prosecution further stated that Amenuvor had ¢2.4 billion, while Amuda and Sagri received ¢80 million and ¢90 million respectively from the deal.

A Chief State Attorney, Mr Anthony Gyambiby, said the Auditor-General's Department embarked on thorough investigations and detected some irregularities in the preparation of teachers' salaries.

Investigations revealed that Amenuvor approached Amuda some time in 2000 and enquired whether he knew someone who could agree to commit such a fraudulent deal.

Mr Gyambiby said Amuda promised to assist and he later approached Sagri, who agreed to carry out the deal.
He said the modus operandi was that the three prepared and inflated duplicate cheques alongside original cheques and later discarded the original ones.

Forensic laboratory results, the prosecution said, also showed that the signatures of the authorised persons mandated to sign the cheques were forged.

Mr Gyambiby said investigations revealed that the original cheques bearing all the details of the cheques recovered from the Bank of Ghana (BoG) were printed and saved on a diskette at the computer section.

It was also discovered that the original cheques, however, authorised payment of a lesser amount than the parallel duplicate cheques recovered from the BoG.

For example, on January 15, 2001, the Controller and Accountant-General's Department issued a cheque numbered CAG/No. 0000024289 to the West Mamprusi Community Bank for ¢308,103,679. Another cheque duplicated with the same details on the original cheques was issued for ¢458,103,679.

Thus, a difference of ¢150,000,000 was made on the duplicate. Investigations further established that the computer section printed original cheques for respective beneficiaries and in accordance with instruction for the purpose.

However, the original cheques were stepped down and destroyed at the Mamprusi Community Bank, while duplicated ones were presented at different times for withdrawal.

Mr Gyambiby told the court that Amuda usually met Amenuvor at the Intercity STC Yard in Accra to hand over the withdrawn moneys.

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