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SFO withHolds Bonzali Rural Bank Billions


2005-06-10 23:28:25
This article has been read 1116 times.

THE SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE (SFO) is still battling to fend off charges of theft by its enforcement officers of over a billion cedis from a rural bank in Tamale, which still remains unaccounted for, despite the intervention of the Bank of Ghana’s Banking Supervision unit after four years.
The Northern Zone of the SFO is the highest body responsible for checking official corruption and financial misappropriations.

But investigations by The Chronicle indicate that the organization seized suspects from the Bonzali Rural Bank, following discovery of relatively massive financial malpractice involving ¢1.4 billion by BoG’s banking Supervision Department, which emanated from the examination of the books of the bank from June 2 to July 1, 2000.

Amongst the dubious and corrupt practices of the management were, the manipulation of customers’ accounts, fictitious loan accounts, granting of interest-free loans without any effort at recovering, and failure to deliver total cash withdrawn from clearing accounts of the bank (short landing) among others.

The BoG Supervision Department, the paper gathered, tasked the Northern Zone of the SFO to recover the monies from the suspects.

The monies the SFO recovered on behalf of the bank have not been released since then, and all efforts by the Board and Management of the Bonzali Rural Bank to reclaim the ¢1.4 billion have failed. The last effort made by the management of the bank to recover the said amount from the SFO was through the stimulation of the Banking and Supervision Department officials, who recently audited the books of the bank and questioned the whereabouts of that huge amount.

Conversely, evidential documents available to this paper indicate that, Mr. Mohammed Yakubu Alhassan and Musah Adam, anti-corruption campaigners in the Northern Region, were appointed as the enforcement agents of the Bonzali Rural Bank on May 31, 1999 to act on behalf of the bank to retrieve all monies owed by customers. Their said appointment as enforcement agents, was by an arrangement between the SFO, the Ghana Police Service and the bank.

The initial financial malpractice at the bank, the paper uncovered, was discovered by the two gentlemen (Mohammed Yakubu Alhassan and Musah Adam) during the loan recovery exercise, who then hinted one Mr. G.K. Hadzi of the Banking and Supervision Department, leading to the follow-up examination of the bank’s books by a team from the BoG Banking and Supervision Department.

The paper learnt that the inexcusable and unjustifiable withholding of the ¢1.4 billion by the SFO was a collaborative intrigue between the SFO headquarters in Accra and the northern zone of the SFO in Tamale, hence the headquarters’ refusal to act on the matter.

“When you contact the northern zone officials, they will direct you to the headquarters and when you visit the headquarters too they will also direct you to the zonal level. This means that the money has been shared by both the SFO headquarters and the northern zone,” a source close to the bank hinted.

The paper also gathered however that, the commissions due the two enforcement agents of the bank, Mr. Mohammed Yakubu Alhassan and Musah Adam have been put on hold until the ¢1.4 billion is released by the SFO.

Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bonzali Rural Bank, Hajia Mariama Sumani, confirmed the report and outlined the steps taken by the Board to retrieve the money from the SFO ever since she took over from the former board chairman, which did not work for them.

Hajia Mariama entreated the SFO headquarters in Accra and other authorities to intervene for the bank to get back the money and also Mr. Mohammed Yakubu Alhassan, the bank’s enforcement agent tasked with the retrieval of monies owed the bank, since it (money) belonged to the customers and shareholders, to enable the young fragile rural bank operate effectively.

Several efforts made by the paper to interview the Northern Zone Boss of the Serious Fraud Office, Mr. Seidu Adam, who according to our investigation had taken an indefinite leave for the SFO headquarters in Accra to defend himself against certain similar allegations leveled against him and his zone, proved unsuccessful.

But in an interview with The Chronicle however, the Deputy Northern Zone Boss of the SFO, Mr. Baba Zakaria, who was apparently very apprehensive commenting on the issue, later confirmed the report by saying, “master (referring to this reporter) it will be very difficult for me to talk about this matter, because it is a very serious issue and even older than you and I.”

But when contacted again three days later, the Deputy Northern Zone Boss, who claimed to have consulted his boss for details and permission, stressed that the case was true but the monies involved was not up to ¢1.4billion exactly, but around ¢1.2 billion, which he said was eventually transferred to the investigation department of the SFO headquarters in Accra, because the money was too big. But he could not substantiate why the SFO investigation department has kept the about ¢1.4 billion in the name of “further investigations” since 2000 without the consent of the Bonzali Rural Bank and Bank of Ghana.
Source: From Edmond Gyebi, Tamale N/R for Chronicle

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