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19.08.2005 General News

Another Pyram? - BoG Freezes Operations

Grapgic

The Bank of Ghana (BoG)has frozen the bank accounts of the Individual Development Organisation (IDO) Ghana, an NGO, and ban it from operating a non-banking financial service.

It has also closed down all the offices of the organisation, which has mobilised deposits from subscribers at 50 per cent interest after 30 days.

The operations of the IDO are reminiscent of the activities of Pyram and R5 which, in 1996, operated a scam scheme that led to people losing millions of cedis in deposits.

With the IDO scheme, according to the police, deposits ranging between ¢500,000 and ¢100 million had been deposited at the time of the BoG action. Some subscribers had even made deposits in dollars.

Four directors of the organisation are currently helping the police to investigate the activities of the NGO, which has over 80,000 subscribers throughout the country.

The Chairman of the organisation, Sir Umanah-Ekeatte, a Nigerian, is,however, on the run and the police have mounted a search for him.

A group of people who, after the BoG and the police action, also opened an offshoot of the organisation and recruited 3,000 subscribers, has also been arrested.

The group, numbering seven, opened an offshoot of the IDO at Abeka and collected application and acceptance fees from the subscribers against the orders of the bank and the police.

Five of them have been arrested,while two are on the run. The IDO has branches in Nigeria, the Gambia and other West African countries.

Prospective subscribers are made to pay ¢25,000 as application fee and an acceptance fee of ¢35,000.

The IDO operated on a 10-point action plan and before anyone could access any two of the action plans, he or she had to recruit 60 additional subscribers.

Mr Patrick Ampewuah, the Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigations Department(CID), told the Graphic that the police had information from the BoG that an NGO was mobilising funds from the public and giving out loans without licence.

He said a joint team of CID and BOG officers located the offices of the IDO at Kaneshie, near the market, where they saw a long queue of prospective clients submitting membership forms and paying deposits.

Mr Ampewuah said a search conducted on the premises revealed several documents relating to the company's transactions and large amounts of money.

He said four of the directors were arrested and,upon interrogation,they said the aim of the IDO was to reduce poverty in Africa by 2010 and that their target was to liberate 200 million people in Africa from poverty.

The deputy director said the suspects also indicated that the IDO had 10 action plans under which it operated and the first was to train beneficiaries in their field of choice.

He said the other actions plans related to the payment of school fees,employment opportunities,foreign trips, setting up of businesses,hire purchase facilities, mobilising funds,among others.

According to Mr Ampewuah, investigations into the organisations activities revealed that it was incorporated on June 16, 2004,and was given a certificate to commence business on the same day.

He said at the time of registration of the business, the chairman and six directors who constituted the executive council had the same residential address as H/No C 90/3 at Adabraka.

They opened two bank accounts at the Stanbic Bank and the Agricultural Development Bank(ADB)with initial deposits of ¢500,000 each but their accounts presently stood at more than ¢2 billion at the ADB alone.

An examination of the accounts of the organisation at both banks revealed huge cash deposits were frequently made into the accounts and at the end of every month they sent lists of persons to be paid to the banks.

It was after that action that the seven,apparently without the knowledge of the original directors, took advantage of the willingness of clients to participate in the scheme to open a branch at Abeka and started taking deposits from people.

The seven are Jones Kwame, Bright Doku, Moses Owusu-Sekyere, Appiah Wolanyo and Gloria Dompreh. The others are Selassie De-Ben Elikplim and Solomon Wakemburg.Selassie and Solomon are on the run, while the five others are helping the police in investigations.

Mr Ampewuah noted that while the police were investigating the activities of the organisation,Selassie and Solomon recruited the five persons and started operating the new branch.

He said when the police arrived at the scene after a tip-off, they found a long queue of prospective clients struggling to register.

He said the prospective subscribers began to hoot at the police for interfering with the activities of the organisation.

The IDO was inaugurated at the British Council Hall on July 31, 2004. A branch had been opened in Takoradi in April 2005.

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