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30.03.2006 General News

Minister Osei-Ameyaw in more trouble

By Palaver

ANOTHER NPP MP IN COCAINE DEAL? …As woman tells horror stories of drug dealing and female corpses THERE appears to be another NPP MP scandal on the way involving international drug trafficking, even with the matter of the arrest and trial of NPP MP for Nkoranza North Eric Amoateng in far away USA for heroin-dealing still pending.

This time, the MP involved is allegedly not just an ordinary NPP MP; he is also the NPP Deputy-Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, NPP MP for the Asuogyaman constituency in the Eastern Region. Asuogyaman constituency hosts the famous Akosombo Township, home of the even more famous Akosombo Dam out of which the Volta Lake has been created and from where the bulk of Ghana's electricity is generated.

The 'lady canary' who is singing loud and clear and blowing the whistle on the Deputy Minister, is one Mrs. Elizabeth Agyapong. And does she have a story to tell?

According to Mrs. Agyapong, Hon. Osei- Ameyaw has teamed up with one Herman Seshie, a rogue businessman from the PNDC days, to set up a company called Pointer Ltd, which allegedly deals in the export of Soya beans. Pointer Ltd, however, is nothing but a front company for the export of cocaine, according to Mrs. Agyapong.

As told by Mrs. Agyapong on Radio Gold, she was engaged as a courier for the cocaine export business by the Deputy Minister of Trade, Hon. Kofi Osei-Ameyaw. In order to spiritually fortify her for the assignment, Hon. Osei-Ameyaw blindfolded her and drove her for over five hours to a shrine where she had a tooth extracted for purposes of the spiritual fortification.

At the shrine, according to Mrs, Agyapong, she saw the corpses of two women – one pregnant and one with an ear cut.

Mrs. Agyapong however did not say whether she ever actually undertook any of the cocaine export trips.

Hon. Osei-Ameyaw however disputes Mrs. Agyapong's story. According to him, Pointer Ltd is owned by his father and the company deals in the export of soya beans.

'The Ghana Palaver' has however established that Pointer Ltd was established by Herman Seshie and is run and managed by him. Indeed Pointer Ltd was the same company that was used in 1984 by Herman Seshie to commit acts of economic sabotage, evasion of duty and forgery and for which Herman Seshie was penalised. If Mrs. Agyapong is to be believed, then it means the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry has teamed up with the rogue Herman Seshie to use Pointer Ltd again as a front for a cocaine-export business.

Herman Seshie has quite a history.

In the PNDC era, he was investigated by the erstwhile National Investigations Committee (NIC) in connection with the smuggling into the country of large quantities of container goods and was investigated for economic sabotage and evading the payment of customs duties on those goods. (We begin a serialisation of the NIC Report into that scandal in our paper today. See Page 3) When the Alhaji Musa Moctar Bamba scandal broke in 2002, there was a shadowy figure lurking in the background who was the one who allegedly forged the signature of Minister of Private Sector Development Kwamena Bartels to fraudulently guarantee some investment for a foreign company, The foreign company lost huge sums of foreign exchange as a result.

That shadowy figure has been identified as Herman Seshie.

In Kutu Acheampong's NRC era, Herman Seshie was again involved in a company called Lims Ltd, which also had some trouble with the law.

The question on the lips of NPP corruption-watchers is whether the specific allegations of Mrs. Elizabeth Agyapong of a Deputy Minister dealing in cocaine will be investigated or, as President Kufuor is bound to demand, the lady should “produce evidence”.

This time around, however, it looks like the President's hands are tied, for Mrs. Elizabeth Agyapong has produced evidence. She is “the evidence”. THE MAN HERMAN SESHIE —AND A COMPANY CALLED “POINTER LIMITED” … The antecedents—and their criminal activities FOLLOWING Mrs. Elizabeth Agyapong's mention of Herman Seshie of Pointer Limited in the alleged cocaine-dealing activities of the NPP MP for Asuogyaman and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Hon. Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, and the revelation that he was also involved in the alleged forgery of Kwamena Bartels's signature in the matter involving Alhaji Moctar Musa Bamba, Ghana Palaver today begins a serialisation of the erstwhile NDC's investigation report into the activities of the man and his company which reveals acts of fraud, forgery, evasion of customs duties and other economic and white collar crimes. The first of the 5-part report is headed “Trade Malpractices by Moses Ahiabu and Others (Interception of Four Containers) and is dated 28 November, 1984.

Now read on —

TRADE MALPRACTICES BY MOSES AHIABU AND OTHERS (INTERCEPTION OF FOUR CONTAINERS) – PART 1

1. On 4 September 1984, a Gondar Barracks team intercepted at Tetteh Quarshie circle, Accra, four containers on suspicion that they contained restricted items and possibly arms and ammunition.

2. Subsequent examination revealed that the contents were an assortment of various items including wireless sets, tape recorders, video recording machines and colour television sets.

3. Documentation covering the items showed that they were to be warehoused under bond at the Standard Bank Bonded Warehouse No. 50 at Tema.

4. The case was later referred to the National Investigations committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the removal of the items from the port without the payment of the requisite taxes.

5. The investigations disclosed startlingly that Moses Ahiabu, Managing Director of Man Shipping Agency and Maks Shipping and Air Freighting Services, Tema, Herman Seshie, Managing Director of Evercel Tapes (Ghana) Limited, Tema, operated an informal partnership, and in September, 1984 took delivery of the four containers of assorted goods, mostly restricted items, without the requisite documents or licences and without the payment of the appropriate duties and taxes.

6. All the four containers were diverted from their true destination, the Standard Bank Bonded Warehouse No. 50, Tema, and the total unpaid duties and taxes due on their contents amounted to ¢11,810,871.82 (eleven million eight hundred and ten thousand eight hundred and seventy-one cedis eighty-two pesewas).

7. The investigations exposed the maladministration of key customs and excise officials charged with operating the bonded warehouse system which was designed to protect government revenue. The laxity and negligence on the part of these officers made it possible for the clearing agent, Moses Ahiabu, to remove the goods to unauthorised destinations in Accra in contravention of the customs regulations and without the payment of the appropriate taxes.

8. In the course of the inquiry many instances of flagrant disregard for and wilful and reckless violation of the country's Customs, Investment and Trade Laws which would tend to wreck havoc and damage on the national economy were revealed.

9. Witnesses were examined including:

James Constance Arthur – Senior Inspector of Customs and Excise, Tema. Walton K. P. Derby – Senior Inspector of Customs and Excise, Tema. Yacub Kotey Nikoi-Olai – Customs and Excise Officer, Tema.

FINDING

10. Our findings are that:

Arrival of Four Containers

i. In August 1984, four containers, two consigned in the name of Pointer Limited, Accra, and two others shipped in the name of Man Shipping Agency, Tema, arrived at the port of Tema.

ii. The two containers in the name of Pointer Limited were entered and cleared in the name of Prestige Agencies but they were actually the properties of Herman Seshie of Pointer Limited, Accra, and the remaining two, though consigned and cleared in the name of Man Shipping Agency, Tema, were in reality for the Indian national Raj Kumar Ahuja, Managing Director of Evercel Tapes (Ghana) Limited, Tema.

iii. Man Shipping Agency is owned by Moses Jeffery Kwame Ahiabu, Prestige Agencies by Dinadayal Tulsidas Moolghandani, a naturalised Ghanaian of Indian origin, and Pointer Limited by Herman Seshie, a Ghanaian.

iv. Except the boys' mixed sports/polo shirts, all the goods in the four containers including video and television sets are restricted items and so the Ministry of Trade does not issue special licences to cover their importation into the country in commercial quantities.

v. The importers could not clear the goods because they had not previously obtained special licences to cover them. In any case, they could not have been granted special licences to clear the goods, since their importation was illegal.

Processing of documents for warehousing

vi. In view of this, Man Shipping Agency successfully applied to the Deputy Comptroller of Customs and Excise at the Headquarters of the Ghana Customs and Excise Department, Adams Andrews Akwa, for permission to warehouse the four containers under bond in Bonded Warehouse No. 50 at the port of Tema.

vii. for customs purposes, a bond is a legal document a person enters into binding himself to pay to the state a bond penalty of a specified sum should be fail to honour the conditions of the bond.

viii. in pursuance of this, it became necessary for Man Shipping Agency to complete four Warehousing Entry Forms (c.15) to the effect that the articles in the four containers were to be warehoused in Standard Bank Bonded Warehouse No. 50, Tema. Man Shipping Agency declared the bond applicable to secure the removal of items as “Bond No. 50”

ix. under section 83 (4) of the Customs Regulations all entries for warehousing are not to be accepted for processing by the Ghana Customs and Excise Department unless the owner of the warehouse signified on the entry in writing that he agrees to accept the goods into the warehouse for which they are entered.

x. The owners of the warehouse, Standard Bank, did not indicate any such agreement to Customs and in fact Man Shipping Agency had reached no such agreement with Standard Bank to accept the four containers into their warehouse. Furthermore, the Bond No. 50 of Standard Bank stated by the importers to be applicable to the removal of the goods does not exist for that purpose. It refers rather to the Standard Bank Bonded Warehouse No. 50 and has no relevance to the removal of goods from the port to the warehouse for which it was declared.

xi. Curiously enough, the customs officer in the Long Room responsible for checking these entries not only failed to reject the non-existent bond stated by Man Shipping to be applicable to the goods but actually endorsed the bond penalty on each as the entry forms, under a different bond – standard Bond No. 25/72 without seeking the bank's permission.

xii. Even if standard Bank Bond No. 25/72 was correctly applied the regulations say that where goods are entered to approximate value as was the case for all the entries, the bond penalty is treble the duty payable. Our examination of the documents has however revealed that this rule was not applied.

xiii. Customs Officer Nikoi-Olai who passed the entries, endorsed a penalty of ¢400,000.00 under standard Bank Bond No. 25/72 for each of the containers. Consequently, the total of only ¢1,600,000.00 was payable as penalty if the goods were not delivered at Bonded Warehouse No. 50 instead of treble the value of the goods.

COMMENT

In any case, whatever may have been endorsed on the entry form as the bond penalty would never have been enforceable for the simple reason that Customs had not ensured whether Standard Bank consented to its application. In the circumstances, the ¢1,600,000.00 penalty, grossly inadequate as it is, cannot even be claimed by the state. As a matter of fact, Standard Bank disclaims any responsibility for any goods cleared under any of its bonds without its authority. Granted all the above omissions by the Long Room, Customs physical examination of the containers was duty bound to reject the appropriate or provisional values upon which the bond had been calculated if his examination revealed their inadequacy. Although the examination showed that the quantities of certain items had been under stated and others had not even been declared he did not reject the entries. For example, one container declared by Man Shipping Agency to hold 1,050 1-2 band radios, contained assorted items including ten pieces of colour television sets and twelve video recorders. He also found 257 rolls of suiting materials in a container described as containing men's briefs, ladies' panties and sports/polo shirts. The inadequacy of the provisional values is perhaps best illustrated by the case of one of the containers actually valued at ¢9,517,677.12 but provisionally valued at ¢350,000.00. NIKOI-OLAI did not even bother to certify in his record of examination his satisfaction with the approximate values declared as required of him. False Declaration to Customs

xiv. as indicated above, Man Shipping Agency made declarations on the four warehousing entry forms which were false and inaccurate. The name Prestige Agencies was indicated falsely as the importers for two of the containers. Quantities were under-declared, certain items were not even declared and provisional values were ridiculously inadequate.

xv. it was the duty of a customs officer whose physical examination did not tally with what was indicated on entry forms to put the goods “under stop” and raise an offence report but here again NIKOI-OLAI failed to perform his duty.

RELEASE OF THE CONTAINERS

xvi. on 3 September, 1984, Lawson TETTEH and Gladys KUAPAH prepared four Landing Accounts for the four entries in the absence of the Standard Bank Bonded Warehouse No. 50 officer in charge, Thomas MENSAH, who had failed to report for duty without permission.

xvii. The Landing Accounts the above officers prepared were given to employees of Man Shipping Agency who took them to the Container Depot and handed them over to NIKOI-OLAI to conduct the examinations on the containers. This was irregular. The documents should have been booked in a receipt book and sent by an official messenger to the head of the Container Depot who would then detail examination officers to work on them after the details had been entered into a Special Register. Thus the examinations were conducted by NIKOI-OLAI without the knowledge of the senior officials at the Container Depot. xviii. After the examination NIKOI-OLAI prepared, in duplicate, certificates of warehousing authorising the release of the four containers from the Container Depot to the importer for warehousing at Bonded Warehouse No. 50, Tema.

xix. In conformity with the regulations, NIKOI-OLAI should have transmitted to the warehouse officer in advance the originals of the Certificates of Warehousing. But he failed to do so when he gave all of them to the importer.

xx. NIKOI-OLAI's excuse for this dereliction of duty was that the handing of Certificates of Warehousing to importers was a common practice at the Container Depot because of the lack of messengers, transportation and the sheer pressure of work.

xxi. The then Deputy Comptroller in charge of Tema port, Emmanuel O. ANAN, drew our attention to Customs regulations that no goods bound for bonded warehouses are to be released to importers after 3.30 p.m. unless the officer in charge is sure that the warehouse officer has been alerted to receive the goods.

xxii. However, NIKOI-OLAI released two containers at 3.45 p.m. and 4.05 p.m. without making any such arrangements.

xxiii. Thus with the warehousing certificates in hand, Man Shipping Agency was in the position to take the four containers outside the port through all the port security on the pretext that the items were bound for Bonded Warehouse No. 50 outside the port area without the knowledge of the Warehousing Branch of Customs and Excise, Tema, of the release of the goods for the bond. In the meantime, Moses AHIABU hired four trucks at ¢16,000.00 each to convey the containers to Accra.

xxiv. After the goods were taken out of the harbour, Moses AHIABU instructed the drivers to send the containers to his house at Tema where they spent the night.

xxv. At dawn on 4 September, 1984, Moses AHIABU ordered the drivers to head for Accra with him following up. The four containers were intercepted at Tetteh Quarshie Circle, Accra, and Moses AHIABU arrested.

xxvi. The Ghana Customs and Excise Department has put the value of the items in the four containers at ¢23,621,743.69. The tax they have attracted amounts to ¢11,810,871.82 and it is made up as follows:- Customs duty - ¢7,086,523.10

Sales tax - ¢4,724,348.72

NOTE

11. Raj Kumar AHUJA and Herman SESHIE have been called upon to pay up the taxes due from them and they are making efforts to do so as well as settle bills evaded on other containers.

12. A list of the details of the customs duties and sales taxes on the items in the four containers is enclosed.

OPINION

13. Our view is that:

i. Raj Kumar AHUJA and Herman SESHIE, ably aided by Moses AHIABU, deliberately evaded taxes on the items they imported per the four containers.

ii. The goods are basically restricted items and these persons have been concerned in importing them into the country contrary to the restriction imposed on them by law.

RECOMMENDATION

14. Our recommendations are that:-

i. the PNDC may order the forfeiture to the state of the items and instruct the Confiscated Assets Committee to dispose of them.

ii. The Office of the Special Public Prosecutor should study the docket on the case with a view to taking appropriate judicial steps.

iii. The PNDC may direct the appropriate body to reward, in conformity with existing practice, whoever furnished the information that led to the discovery of the offence.

15. Further reports follow.

Signed

LT. CDR. P. S. A. KUMAKO (CHAIRMAN)

G. S. AGGOR (MEMBER)

E. K. OHENE (MEMBER)

L. N. O. ADJETEY (MEMBER)

S. K. F. BAMPOE (MEMBER)

J. T. ADDICO (MEMBER)

YAW APPAU (MEMBER).

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