Excess baggage scam: Story of "Untouchables"
BNI & Nation Security's 2 Year Silence ... The story of 'Untouchables' and inaction At about 18:15 hours of November 14, 2002, a beautiful Ghanair lady sat in front of the electronic desk at the departure hall of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), waiting to check in passengers and baggage. Her name was Angelic Knight French.
On that day least was it expected that she was to be steeped in a controversy of baggage fraud, which was to bring her face to face with operatives of the National Security and the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI).
However, two years on, Angelic hasn't answered a single query from either the National Security, the BNI or the management of Ghana Airways in whose presence the incident occurred.
Insiders say if the case were handled with much more seriousness it could have provided a very useful clue to stopping what they described as “severe losses arising from baggage fraud.”
On that fateful day, Ghana Airways was flying from Accra to Dusseldorf-Germany via Rome. A passenger called Bruku Asiamah who was traveling to Dusseldorf showed up at the check-in counter with three large suitcases.
According to multiple security reports, the three suitcases all weighed more the than Ghana Airway's required 40 kilograms, meaning that Bruku Asiamah needed to pay for excess baggage.
Just after he had checked in his baggage, another passenger, Osei Amankwa, who was also traveling on the same flight checked in with a single suitcase which weighed almost 40 kilograms.
Minutes after the two passengers had left the counter a scream erupted from within the hall, which attracted the attention of passengers and operatives of National Security and BNI.
The scream emanated from the brothers of Bruku Asiamah who were at the airport to see him off.
National Security and BNI operatives rushed to the scene and were told by Asiamah's brothers that they had been made to pay 350 Euros 'as bribe' to a lady who checked-in their brother.
They were said to be shouting at the top of their voices and had even threatened to report the incident to the Minister for Roads and Transport but were persuaded by the security operatives to identify the lady who collected the 350 Euros, but “she was nowhere to be found.”
Security reports sighted by The Chronicle have confirmed that Bruku Asiamah who was about to board the aircraft was hauled to the departure hall to substantiate the allegation of bribery. “Initially Bruku Asiamah denied it but he later confirmed that his brothers had paid some money to the lady who checked him in but he said he did not know the specific amount,” said a BNI officer.
According to security sources, Mr. Roland Monsore, the man who was recently picked up by the police to assist in investigations into circumstances, which led to Ghana Airways losing almost $100,000 on a recent Baltimore flight due to baggage fraud, was the departure manager on that day.
Senior security officers confirmed to The Chronicle early last month that information retrieved from the check-in counter revealed the lady who checked Bruku Asiamah and who was said to have pocketed the 350 Euros as Angelic Knight French.
Security reports have revealed that what further strengthened their conviction that something had gone wrong was that when the security officers checked from the baggage on the aircraft, they found that all the four baggage involved in the case were bearing the name of Osei Amankwa who checked-in with only one suitcase.
“Surprisingly, Bruku Asiamah, the passenger who checked-in with three suitcases, did not even have a single suitcase in his name, even though he and his brothers had confirmed to all the security officers that they had paid 350 Euros to the lady who was identified as Angelic Knight French of Ghana Airways,” a BNI source told The Chronicle.
The Chronicle has gathered that all the security agencies, on duty that day, captured this incident in their reports but the case was left to die and was never touched again by the BNI and the National Security apparatus at the airport. Ghana Airways itself did not take any action on the matter.
According to multiple security sources, Angelic Knight French threatened the officers that she was “untouchable” and that if they wanted to stay at the airport they should stay out of her activities else they will be the first to leave the airport.
According to some security reports on the matter, “Angelic Knight French was said to be the girlfriend of the then Chief Executive of Ghana Airways, one Mr. Quartey, and that the man sits at home and issues instructions to the Ghana Airways personnel through Angelic. That is why she said she was untouchable.”
Neither Angelic nor Mr. Quartey was available for comments on this specific allegation.
When The Chronicle contacted Group Captain A. N. Nkansah (RTD), National Security Coordinator in charge of the Airport, on the story he confirmed it and said the case was brought to his attention.
When he was asked what action he took on the matter, he said that he expected that since the case happened in the presence of the Ghana Airways managers, they would take it up.
He explained that even though the case was equally important, it was not on the priority list of the National Security apparatus at the airport at that time and added that, the security priority at that time was to stop the daily robbery of travellers and returnees at the airport.
The soft-spoken security coordinator said the fight against the robbers had taken a long time to contain, revealing that the armed robbers operated a very complex web which included porters at the airport who were giving details such as taxi numbers of the robbery victims. Group Capt. Nkansa said that
the officer who handled the case was no more working at the airport.
Other intelligence reports, which did not also make it to the fore, indicated that because no action was taken against the Ghanair staff, Ghana Airways ladies at the front desk were mocking the security officers who busted the alleged syndicate.
The Airport Security Coordinator told The Chronicle that soon after he received a phone call from the paper he informed the National Security office about the fact that The Chronicle was going to run a story on the matter.
Meanwhile, security experts have suggested that as a short-term measure, the handling of baggage should be taken from Ghana Airways and given to the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).