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25.05.2005 General News

Allegations Do Not Merit SFO Attention -SFO

By Graphic

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has responded to allegations of impropriety levelled against Mr John Addo Kufuor, son of the President, over the purchase of a hotel near the President's private residence in Accra, saying the allegations do not merit its attention.

Mr A. Tetteh Mensah, Assistant Director of Investigations at the SFO, who made this position known to the Graphic on Monday, said the mandate of the SFO was to investigate cases of fraud that caused financial loss to the state and added that allegations that were inconsistent with that mandate would not merit the attention of the office but could, nevertheless, be taken up by other bodies, such as the police.

He said in the allegations made against Mr Addo Kufuor, also known as Chief Kufuor, there had not been any submission to suggest that he had, in any way, caused financial loss to the state, for which reason the SFO must take action.

“From preliminary readings from all these things and the studies we are making currently, nobody has been able to lay down, point-blank, that the President's son has taken money from the state and, therefore, attract the investigative attention of the SFO. All that they are saying is that he has gone for a loan from the Prudential Bank. If that is the case, then it is no loss to the state and so in that case the SFO does not come in,” he submitted.

Mr Mensah was responding to public concerns about the quiet attitude of the SFO to corruption allegations levelled against some public officials in recent times.

Ghana is currently ranked 63rd on the world corruption index, according to Transparency International, an anti-corruption body. The country's poor ranking has been a major concern to many Ghanaians who had expected anti-corruption bodies such as the SFO and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to be up to the task.

The Serious Fraud Office Act, 1993 (Act 466) mandates the SFO “to monitor, investigate and, on the authority of the Attorney-General, prosecute any offence involving serious financial or economic loss to the state and to make provision for connected and incidental purposes”.

Mr Mensah said the SFO had been working on the quiet and that it had been the practice of the institution not to publicise its investigations because that might jeopardise its work.

“We are not a body that normally goes out on press conferences to indicate what we are doing.... In most instances, we just investigate the cases without fanfare,” he pointed out.

“As a statutory body, the SFO must be the last body to give wrong information and, therefore, whatever information we come out with must be based on facts, figures and evidence,” he added.

Mr Mensah said the SFO was investigating allegations of financial impropriety levelled against some senior officials of the Energy Commission, adding that the investigations were focused on a broad perspective of the commission's activities and not just the narrow way the allegations had been made in the media.

He said the investigations started long before the issue was taken up by the media.

Asked when they would be completed, he said he could not give any time limit because of their complex nature.

“Honestly, to tell you that we can put a finger on the trigger to tell you we can finish in two weeks or three weeks is not possible. But we try as much as possible to expedite investigations into all matters,” he explained.

He said the SFO was also investigating other allegations of corruption and cited the case of one Alhaji Nuhu, who was alleged to be involved in an £800,000 '419' scam, with his victims including some mining companies in which the government had a stakes.

Mr Mensah said the office acted on information from varied sources, including the media, and not necessarily because the President or a government official had asked it to do so, adding that the President, just like any other individual, could ask the office to investigate a case.

He explained that the seriousness of any fraud was considered on the basis of the amount involved, the personalities behind it and the mode of commission.

Mr Mensah said the SFO considered every fraud case very seriously so long as it had a negative effect on the national kitty and “so we don't look at personalities, we don't look at their colour, religion or race. We have to investigate whatever comes before us”.

He said the SFO had the human capacity to measure up to the task, but indicated that it would need more logistics and financial support for the discharge of its duties.

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