… Sneaks out of hospital with unpaid £70,000 bill AN ALLEGED member of the Asantehene's inner sanctum has snarled the first Black Minister in the British Government into a storm for dodging a medical bill of £70,000.00 in a UK hospital. The story that pushed off the biggest story in the UK off the front page of the largest circulating daily tabloid-sized Daily Mail - the soccer fiesta with France, in yesterday June 13- was headlined MINISTER AND TRIBAL CHIEF'S £70,000.00 NHS DEBT. The Chronicle's European Bureau has just kicked off a follow-up investigation of the allegation that has embarrassed Ghanaians here, but is particularly worrying because it sought to besmirch the solid reputation of Hon. Paul Boateng and his equally reputable Mrs. Janet Boateng. It also leaves a whiff of unease over the Ashanti Royal family. The Boatengs' names were used as a reference by the alleged 'relative' of the King of 'the Ashanti tribe' when he was checked into hospital following a stroke attack which required treatment at St. Mary's hospital, Paddington, London. Despite strict rules issued by the British Government to prevent the abuse of the National Health Service (NHS) by foreigners who are not entitled to free medical care, St. Mary's hospital were fooled by the quality of bedside visitors and the visit of Mr. and Mrs. Boateng to believe that he would be an honourable man and pay his bills. He had already been properly apprised of it before continuing with the treatment. He disappeared thereafter and attempts to recover the amount meant the Hospital had to contact Paul Boateng, whose wife was said to have been immensely helpful, but failed to trace the man who is 'thought to be back' to Ghana. Details of the case came up at a hospital Board meeting just last month when auditors brought the matter up when they were queried as to the reason for the decision for the Health Department to write off the £70,000.00 debt. Paul Boateng's name was floated as being the reason for the write-off. Mr. Paul Boateng used to be a deputy Minister of Health and has always bent over backwards to support any cause that has a connection to Ghana over the years. This is well known in the British establishment. This suggestion however was promptly rejected because the Boatengs refused to allow their names to be entered on any forms when the man was hospitalised as being liable for any debt. Paul and his very well known ex-councillor wife, Mrs. Janet Boateng, are pretty media savvy themselves. The latter clashed on issues with her husband when she opposed policies that allow white families to adopt black children. Mr. Boateng was targeted over this matter in an editorial in the same issue of the paper- BOATENG MUST HELP TO END THIS HEALTH SCANDAL - suggesting that the cabinet Minister knows enough about the matter and has good links in the Ashanti royal family to identify the slippery 'royal' who was admitted into the hospital, was treated as a royal, yet slipped out like a thief and a pauper, and brought disgrace to the Ashanti Royal family. Patient confidentiality prevents the precise details of the man being made public in the British media, but that limitation does not prevent any Ghanaian newspaper, including The Chronicle from digging up that information and publishing it to prevent a potentially embarrassing fallout. The possibility of the Asantehene's regular forays into Britain usually with a whole retinue being seriously cut down cannot be ruled out. The link between The British and The Ashanti Royal House is historical. An NHS official said that the cost of the treatment was enough to fund 14 heart operations, a serious issue in the context of the long queues that British taxpayers, including legal Ghanaian/African residents, are subjected to because of cash constraints that have afflicted Britain over the recent years. The only person responsible for paying back the money owed to the NHS, according to the hospital authorities, is the patient who received the care. The Boatengs cannot be held liable, neither can the Ashanti Royal Family, it was made clear.