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11.06.2007 Crime & Punishment

MP Fights Back

By D. GUIDE

Member of Parliament (MP) for Upper East Denkyira in the Central Region, Nana Amoakoh is fighting the battle of his life, as he reiterates his innocence in a $1million theft allegation leveled against him by a United States court. At present, the court is pushing for his extradition.

The MP has been accused of stealing over $1 million from the account of his former employers, Fone-A-Car in Brooklyn, New York, in the United States.

Nana Amoakoh, also known as Augustine Asiedu, former president of a limousine service company in New York, together with three others, has been indicted on charges of helping to loot the business of more than $1 million and using much of that for a successful political campaign.

However, in a follow-up interview with DAILY GUIDE on Saturday, the Upper East Denkyira MP maintained his innocence, wondering how he could have used $1million to finance a parliamentary election. “Do you know what $1 million means?” he asked.

According to him, how could he have spent that amount of money when he was not contesting a presidential election.

Though Nana Amoakoh conceded he worked with the auto firm for 15 years, he said he never misconducted himself until he voluntarily resigned in 2005 after his elected to serve his constituents in Parliament.

The unassuming MP stated that his tenure was thoroughly audited, wondering why the persecution now. He did not rule out insiders as the source of allegations of fraud.

The back-bencher MP denied also allegation that he transferred $30,000 to his girl friend, a certain Sebastina Paul, who has also been indicted.

The woman in question, a native of Grenada, Nana Amoakoh said, had never been his girl friend, except that they did “susu” together.

He told Daily Guide that he would come out at the appropriate time to formally react to the allegations, pointing out he has to follow the Parliamentary procedure in doing so.

However the spokeswoman for the US court, Jennifer Kushner, said the court would file extradition requests through the US Department of Justice.

The US has an extradition treaty with Ghana, but it is strongly doubtful if an MP could be extradited, especially since MPs enjoy immunity.

Reports by the Associated Press (AP) on Thursday indicated that Nana Amoakoh and a colleague, Nick Zarbhanelian, stole the money from Brooklyn-based Fone-A-Car and two of its lenders from 2002 into 2005.

According to Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, Asiedu, Fone-A-Car's president, spent the money on a political campaign in Ghana.

Asiedu and Zarbhanelian, Fone-A-Car's chief financial officer, allegedly stole cheques for about $700,000, written by Manhattan clients including investment banks and law firms for car services, Morgenthau said.

He disclosed the two deposited the cheques into Fone-A-Car accounts at several Manhattan banks and then moved the money into their own accounts and that Asiedu later wired a large amount of the stolen money to accounts he had in Ghana.

The MP wrote more than $30,000 worth of cheques from a Fone-A-Car account for deposit into the bank account of his girlfriend, Sebastiana Paul of Brooklyn, who also is a defendant in the indictment, Morgenthau said.

Besides stealing from Fone-A-Car, which had been in business more than 20 years, Zarbhanelian of Fort Lee, New Jersey, stole more than $300,000 from the Manhattan lending company, Rosenthal & Rosenthal Inc., the district attorney said.

To prevent Fone-A-Car from going bankrupt due to their thefts, the defendants contrived in 2004 to receive cash advances from Rosenthal against money the limo service was owed by clients, he said.

In fact, Fone-A-Car was not owed anything, Morgenthau said, but based on the invoices, Rosenthal lent Fone-A-Car the money, keeping the car service running and the defendants stealing.

Morgenthau stressed Asiedu, 52, and Zarbhanelian, 55, worked with Apurva Patel, 41, of Armonk, N.Y., to steal $325,000 from All Points Capital Corp., a financing and leasing company affiliated with North Fork Bank.

The limo company officers and Patel, founder of a New Jersey company which made dispatching and billing software for car services, provided false documents to All Points for a loan to buy $325,000 worth of the software, Morgenthau said, adding, they stole most of the money but put some in Fone-A-Car's accounts to hide their thefts.

Asiedu, Zarbhanelian and Patel are charged with second-degree grand larceny and money laundering, punishable by 15 years in prison upon conviction.

Paul, 43, is charged with third-degree grand larceny, punishable by seven years in prison. Zarbhanelian, Patel and Paul pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in Manhattan's state Supreme Court and were ordered to return to court June 28.

Bail for Zarbhanelian was set at $500,000. Patel's bail was set at $250,000, which he posted, while Paul posted bail of $25,000 and was released.

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