Scandal Rocks President's Office - Part II
… How the fraud worked … Orgy of contradictions In the words of Hon. Bamba, “That guy never worked here. He used to hang around here at my office but he wasn’t a staff. He was usually hanging around my secretary’s desk, he might have stolen the letterhead from my secretariat.” However, in his statement to the BNI on December 5, 2002, Mr. Akuffo insisted that “By that time, I was working in Hon. Bamba’s office at the Castle, therefore I used Office of the President heading and wrote to the investor.” As the controversy involving the scandal at the Office of the President heats up, the two culprits -Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs and his phony business partner who are steeped in the scandal have engaged themselves in friendly fire with shots of contradictions flowing each camp. The latest expose had been obtained from “Hon. Akuffo’s” statement to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) on December 5, 2002 in which he categorically stated that at the time of the fraud, he was working at the Office of the President and directly under Deputy Presidential Minister, Hon. Moctar Musah Bamba who co-owns Emrate Investment Limited, the company which once dreamt of the idea of using Presidential letterheads to guarantee private loans. According to him, it was at this office that the letterhead from the office of the President which, was used as a purported government guarantee for a loan for Emrate Investment Limited, emanated.
It is recalled that the Hon. Bamba, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) and Deputy Chief of Staff, is listed on company registration documents as a shareholder, board director and secretary, a situation which gives him more powers in the company than Mr. Akuffo who is only a shareholder and director of the company. In an interview with the Chronicle late last month, the Minister denied that Akuffo had ever been a staff of the Office of the President and that the man who carried himself as the Member of Parliament for Upper West Akyim, was a ‘thief”. THE FRAUD Narrating to the BNI how the controversy started, the 45-year old Akuffo from Akuapem Akropong, admitted that he was a NPP parliamentary candidate for Upper West Akyim in the 2000 elections but lost to Hon. S.K. Mensah of the NDC. According to him, he did not go back to the USA after losing the election but registered a company called Emrate Investment Limited. “Hon Akuffo said on January 12, 2002, he made a business trip to China for pre-paid meter with a an unnamed company in China in order to make a proposal to Electricity Company of Ghana. He said while in his hotel in China he met a Canadian businessman at the same hotel and that they instantly became friends and started business discussions. “The man became interested in my company and promised to be a partner. When I came back to Ghana discussions went to the extend that he was calling me almost all the time.” Akuffo told the BNI that on July 16, 2002, he received a mail from his Canadian friend whose name he only gave as “Mr. Gregg”. He said when he opened the mail it was a bank draft to be credited to Emrate Investment and a letter instructing him to lodge the draft with his bank. Akuffo added that the instruction from Mr. Gregg was that when the bank draft cleared he should ask his bankers to establish letters of credit for an unnamed company in France who was to supply him with electronic items whose cost was between $45,000 and $55,000. Gregg asked him to use the rest of the money to get an office. Meanwhile, Chronicle investigations revealed that at the time when Akuffo claimed Mr. Gregg was pumping about $93, 000 into Emrate Investment, the shareholders of the company remained unchanged. The next day after receiving the bank draft from his “partner”, Akuffo walked to his bankers (name withheld) and deposited the draft. Soon after that, bank sources said Akuffo put asphyxiating pressure on the bank. All this time, the bank had believed Akuffo’s claim that he was an MP and a member of the Finance Committee of Parliament. These credentials were on all the company’s registration documents, which were co-signed by the Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs. Three weeks after the bank draft was presented to the local banks correspondent ABN AMRO in New York credited the account of Emrate Investment. Within three days after the money credited Mr. Akuffo cashed $30,875.35 One week later Akuffo sent another cheque of ¢65,000,000 but it was dishonored because the New York bank had debited the account of the bank because they realized that the bank draft was a forgery. Akuffo claims he spoke to Mr. Gregg who asked him to send the bank draft back to him so that he could regularize it. Up to date Gregg hasn’t sent the money and credible due diligence investigations indicate that “Mr. Gregg” does not exist and that it is Akuffo’s own creation. THE FIRST FRAUD Further investigations into the activities of Emrate Investment Limited established that a year before the bank draft incident the company had attempted to defraud another bank with a letterhead from the Office of the President with a forged signature of Hon. Kwamena Bartels and purporting to give a government guarantee. The Deputy Minister confirmed in an interview with The Chronicle that he knew of the attempted fraud. According to Akuffo’s statement to the BNI, sometime in 2001, he had a Pakistani business partner called Habib who agreed to send him goods worth $7.9 million on condition that he (Akuffo’s) bankers would open an ex-crow account so that his investment would be secured. He added that Habib also requested that he needed a government guarantee for his private company, Emrate Investment Limited. “By that time, I was working in Hon. Bamba’s office at the Castle. I therefore used the office of the President letter heading and wrote to the investor that Ghana government guarantee does not cover a private company. I did not sign Hon. Kwemena Bartel’s signature,” he said. Meanwhile bank sources have confirmed that Akuffo provided a purported government guarantee signed by Hon. Bartels. Akuffo said the bank took the letter to Mr. Bartel’s office and he was later arrested and sent to the Police Headquarters where one Sgt Dogola investigated the case. IN the case of the first fraud, Akuffo told the BNI that, “it was discovered that I was not trying to defraud the government and was told to go and anytime I was needed I would be called.” That was the last time the case was called. THE SCHEMING On December 10, 2002, five days after Akuffo exposed the Bamba’s involvement in the whole controversy, and just when the BNI was about to investigate the matter he went to the BNI to make an additional statement which sought to insulate the board of directors including the deputy minister from the fraud. He said in this additional three-paragraph statement that that Emrate Investment Limited had six directors namely Hon. Bamba, Mr. W.Q. Botchway, Mr. W.K. Aboah, Rev. K.L Soku and Miss Harriet Nana Yaa Asantewaa. “I wish to state that in this transaction, (referring to the bank draft fraud) none of the directors of the company knew anything about the transaction” he completed his statement. Chronicle undercover investigations, which were confirmed by the deputy minister in an interview, revealed that he wrote to the Registrar General’s Department instructing the office to remove his name from the company’s documents. Apparently thinking that the documents had been changed, when Chronicle asked him whether he was a shareholder, board director and secretary of the company, he said “No.”