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04.04.2007 Crime & Punishment

Court Grants Bail To Nigerian Student

An Accra circuit court yesterday granted bail in the sum of ¢300 million with three sureties to a Nigerian student who allegedly forged documents purported to have come from the Office of the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Standard Chartered Bank to defraud an Austrian businessman of $9 million.

Two of the sureties should be either public or civil servants.

The accused, Michael Clinton Okeleke, 22, was alleged to have conspired with another Nigerian, Okey Oguchuku, now at large, to lure their victim by using the fake documents.

Okeleke pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy and forgery of official documents and he will re-appear on May 7, 2007 for hearing.

Narrating the facts of the case to the court, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) George Abavelim said the accused persons were Nigerians resident in Ghana, while the complainant was based in Vienna, Austria.

He said in December last year, the Nigerians came into contact with the complainant through the Internet and hatched a plan to defraud him.

ASP Abavelim said they subsequently sent an e-mail purported to have come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NEPAD informing the complainant that he was a beneficiary of $9 million, along with seven other people, from the Nigerian government.

He said the accused persons stated that the Nigerian government had taken notice of the '419' scam in that country and had decided to pay him through a reserve account in Ghana and that all beneficiaries were to be paid before the upcoming general election in that country.

The prosecutor said the accused persons, on January 4, 2007, forged some documents purported to have come from Mr Charles Bintim, a Minister of State at the Presidency, confirming the payments.

They also forged a first quarter payment schedule (C) allegedly signed by Kwasi Mensah, a Director of the Foreign Payments Unit, and further e-mailed their victim a letter purported to have been signed by Mr Ebenezer Essoka, the Chief Executive of the Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana, confirming that the money had been lodged at the bank in his name.

According to the prosecutor, the accused persons then asked the complainant to furnish the bank with his bank account to facilitate the transfer of the money to him and that he was to contact the chief executive on a telephone number which was found to belong to Okeleke, described as a British lawyer based in Ghana.

Okeleke was tracked and arrested with a Nigerian passport bearing his name and he admitted the offence and stated that he was introduced into the business by Oguchuku, who had since eluded the police.

Story by Stephen Sah

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