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20.04.2007 Business & Finance

¢6.4bn Loss Hits GCB

The Accra Regional Tribunal yesterday remanded three top officials of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) in custody for allegedly causing more than ¢6.4 billion loss to the bank. They are to re-appear on May 3, 2007.

Ebo Quartey and Isaach Okran, former branch managers of the GCB in Cape Coast and Swedru, and Fred Dzebu, Chief Cashier, Koforidua, were arraigned before the tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Frank Manu, after their illegal transaction was detected by the GCB audit team and reported to the police for investigations about four months ago.

The suspects, who were all in Koforidua before being reassigned, were alleged to have granted loans to 17 customers of the bank between 2005 and 2006 without any documents covering the transactions.

At the time of the incident, Quartey was the Eastern Regional Manager of the bank, with Okran as his deputy and Dzebu as the Chief Cashier.

Briefing the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Director of Operations of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACOP) Charles Tokor, said all the money the suspects granted to the customers came from the vault, being money transferred from the Asamankese and Akim Oda branches of the bank.

He explained that under the bank's regulations, every sub-station had a limit to the money it could keep, adding that any amount exceeding the quota would have to be transferred to the regional branch for safekeeping.

Mr Tokor said when the regional branch also exceeded its limit, it was bound to transfer the excess to the headquarters.

He explained that it was such excess money transferred from the Asamankese and Akim Oda branches to the Koforidua branch that the suspects connived to grant as loans to some customers.

He said investigations revealed that as part of the deal, the customers issued blank cheques to the manager to write any amount on them, since there were inflows into their accounts to pay back the loans.

Unfortunately, he said, there were no inflows into the accounts of the customers.

Mr Tokor said following the transfer of personnel of the bank at its regional and other branch offices, management decided to do routine checks, saying it was during the checks that the deal was exposed.

He said it was detected that there was not a single document covering any of the transactions.

Mr Tokor said so far, only two of the customers had shown goodwill by paying their indebtedness under agreed schedules.

The police have also uncovered another ¢842 million bank scam involving five suspects in Accra involving the ARB Apex Bank.

The deal involving the ARB Apex Bank includes two persons arrested earlier in a similar deal which was published in the Wednesday, April 17, 2007 issue of the Daily Graphic.

Sylvester Annor Barnie, alias Kokou Awity, the alleged kingpin of a national syndicate, and David Ampiah, a clearing officer with the ARB Apex Bank, are among the five new suspects arrested in the ¢842 million case.

The others are Kwasi Ansah, alias Martin Kwasi Awuku, alias Abedi, a management consultant with Wills and Partners, located at Asylum Down, Tessi Pio, a building contractor at Abelenkpe, and Edward Newman, a teacher.

With regard to the ARB Apex Bank case, Mr Tokor said all the suspects were involved in a conspiracy to steal money from various banks in and around Accra.

He said the mode of operation of the syndicate was to employ the services of their accomplices to open accounts with various banks, particularly the rural banks. It then secured the cheque books of the accounts holders.

He said the signature of the account holder was forged and the cheque issued for huge sums payable to other accomplices.

Mr Tokor said when the cheques were presented for payment at the banks, the syndicate, in concert with a staff member of the bank in question, suppressed the cheques from going through the normal processing for clearance.

He explained that with a day's delay, the cheque would be considered technically cleared by banking regulations, adding that the syndicate and its accomplices would quickly cash all the money from the account before the cheques were returned as dud.

He said some time in March this year Barnie, Ansah, Ampiah and Pio met a lady, Cynthia Garshong, and agreed to set in motion a grand scheme to steal money from various banks in Accra.

Mr Tokor said as part of the scheme, Newman and Cynthia provided their cheque books on dormant accounts they held with two different banks in Accra.

He said Newman was given ¢600,000 to open two accounts with two different rural banks on March 9, 2007.

According to Mr Tokor, in order to carry out their plan, a cheque leaflet number 012469 belonging to Newman was issued and his signature forged for an amount of ¢373.5 million made payable to Kalkon Ltd, which is one of Pio's two companies.

He said the syndicate issued another cheque leaflet belonging to Cynthia and forged her signature for an amount of ¢468.5 million made payable to International Development Resources Ltd, also belonging to Pio.

Mr Tokor said the cheques were given to Ansah, who sent them to Pio in his house at Abelenkpe.

Under the design, Pio was to deposit the cheques with his bankers at Adidome in the Volta Region to allow them to go through their normal clearing course, during which Ampiah could suppress them for them to go through.

According to Mr Tokor, in his anxiety to fast-track the clearing of the cheques, Pio sent them to the Apex Bank Head Office in Accra and mistakenly presented them to another officer, instead of Ampiah.

He said Pio could not answer questions on the cheques at the bank and accordingly contacted Barnie and Ansah on the way forward.

He said Ampiah assured Barnie and Ansah that he would intercept the cheque after he had been called to intervene to salvage the situation.

Mr Tokor said Ampiah later called Barnie and Ansah that he could not help because the cheques had got into the wrong hand.

He said Barnie then called to advise Pio to leave the bank premises, since he was in danger of being arrested.