An Advance Fraud Fee (419) syndicate, made up of Nigerians who used forged letterheads of the President, Ministry of Finance and the signature of the Governor of the Bank of Ghana to dupe foreigners on the internet, has been handed a five-year jail term by an Accra Circuit Court.
The first accused person, Victor Okechukwu Okoye Ibueze, now at large, was sentenced in absentia while the remaining eight: Ibrahim Mato, Benson Nnadi, Budy Sampson, Raymond Popson, Ashanor Wright Waheed, Adeotan Oluwafemi Adeniyi, Abolade Oluwaseyi Toyosi and Ekpemadu Chukwu Andy, have all been jailed.
They have all been sentenced to 5 years for conspiracy to commit crime and 18 months for possessing forged official documents. But Ibrahim Mato, using a Ghanaian passport with the name Edward Mensah, was found guilty of forgery of passport and sentenced to 18 months.
All the charges are to run concurrently, according to Her Honour Jennifer Duodu, the trial Judge.
The first accused person was the one in whose house at Achimota, a suburb of Accra, the internet café was situated for the other accused persons who are mostly computer experts and self-styled businessmen to operate from.
In addition, the syndicate has a workshop at Alogboshie near Achimota where their faulty computers are repaired to prevent their activities from being detected.
The facts of the case as read by the court, according to the prosecution, were that the syndicate had for sometime now been using the internet café to prepare forged documents to convince their victims that huge sums of money had been deposited at some banks in Ghana in their names, and that to access these monies, taxes must be paid in Euros and US dollars.
According to the court, accused persons managed to convince a French national they met on the net, who is the complainant in this case, that $8.5 million had been bequeathed him at S-G SSB Bank at Kokomlemle in Accra so he had to pay some money for the release of the money.
The court noted that through some fraudulent correspondences using the letterhead of the President and other forged documents, the accused persons managed to invite complainant to Ghana and on May 25, 2005 collected $35,000 from him as part payment.
The court noted that at that same meeting, Ibrahim Mato, the second accused person posed as the manager of the International Commercial Bank while the others acted as solicitors and a hand receipt was handed to complainant on the money paid. The French was subsequently asked to return to his country and later sort out the remaining money.
Furthermore, the court stated that the complainant was made to understand that he had to finish payment before his fortune could be transferred to him.
The trial Judge noted that while in France, the complainant discussed the issue with a Ghanaian friend and showed him the documents. This friend then advised complainant to report to the police in Ghana because the documents were forged.
Explaining further, the judge said when the complainant was invited to Ghana again by the syndicate on September 16 2005, he alerted the police who trailed the accused persons to the Kotoka International Airport.
They were arrested as they took the complainant from the airport towards Saint Peters Street at Achimota.
A search conducted in the house where the syndicate operated yielded computers, eight Ghanaian passports belonging to the accused persons, ECOWAS traveling certificates, driver's license, some undisclosed amount of money in cedis and naira, and assorted forged documents.
Other items retrieved later included letterheads of the President, signature of the Bank of Ghana Governor, Dr. Paul Acquah, letterheads of the Ministry of Finance, Ghana Police Service, the High Court of Ghana, Auditor-General, among others.
The syndicate was arraigned after police investigations.