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11.12.2007 Business & Finance

ECOBANK Uncovers ¢4 billion Fraud

Officials of ECOBANK Ghana Limited have uncovered a fraud in which three persons are alleged to have withdrawn more than ¢4 billion belonging to two customers of the bank in Accra.

The architect of the deal, Solomon Agbeko, alias Joseph Blankson, whose arrest will open the lid on how the money was stolen, is on the run but two of his accomplices were yesterday remanded in prison custody by an Accra circuit court on a charge of stealing.

They are Bernard Kofi Sallah, a driver, and Kwasi Adai, a farmer. Their pleas were not taken and they will appear again on December 19, 2007.

Prosecuting, Police Chief Inspector Peter Benneh told the court that while investigations into the matter were under way, it had been established that the group managed to steal ¢3,123,102,524.26 and ¢1,023,863,381.88 from the accounts of Ibis Ghana Ltd and Far East Mercantile Ltd, respectively.

The facts, as narrated to the court, did not bring out how the thefts were carried out but the prosecutor said Sallah, who was a customer to the bank, early this year accompanied Agbeko to the Ring Road Central Branch of ECOBANK to serve as a guarantor to enable Agbeko to open an account.

Chief Inspector Benneh said when the two got to the bank, the bank officials detected that Sallah, who was a savings account holder, did not qualify to serve as a guarantor for someone who wanted to open an account with the bank.

However, he said, Sallah drew the attention of Simon Akakpo, a staff of the bank whom he claimed was his friend, to their plight and Akakpo gave the go-ahead to enable him (Sallah) to serve as a guarantor for Agbeko.

The prosecutor said based on the instruction of Akakpo, the account was opened for Agbeko, who after that went to the Silver Star Tower Branch of ECOBANK to open another account which was guaranteed by Sallah.

He said between February 14, 2007 and March 21, 2007, Agbeko used the two accounts to withdraw the money from the accounts of the two companies.

Since Agbeko was at large, he said, the bank officials relied on the information they had on Sallah to arrest the accused persons.

During interrogation, it was discovered that Agbeko paid one of the cheques with a face value of ¢168 million that belonged to Ibis Ghana Ltd, into the accounts of Adai to be cashed for him.

Chief Inspector Benneh said Adai, after cashing the money for Agbeko, was said to have received ¢25 million for his role in bringing the deal into fruition.

Story by Stephen Sah