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‘Missing cocaine’ story doubtful – Agbey

The cocaine missing story put out by the Finder newspaper on Friday April 28 raises some doubt because the paper failed to give substantial evidence to support the claim, David Agbey, a security expert, has said.

According to him, the failure of the paper to provide adequate information on the subject matter has made it difficult for security experts do a comprehensive analysis of the situation.

His comment comes on the heels of the Customs Excise and Preventive Service saying that there is no missing consignment of cocaine at the Tema Port, as revealed by the Sector Commander of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) at the Tema Port, Confidence Nyadzi.

The Finder reported that 10 bags of suspected cocaine, each weighing 50kg (500kg in all), hidden in a consignment of rice, with an estimated street value of about $30million, have vanished from the Tema Port under mysterious circumstances.

But the Customs boss said: “I can tell you that there is no truth in that reportage. I know that this matter has been dealt with at the office of the Minister of Interior and at that meeting was the commissioner of customs, the ex-commissioner, Mr John Pianim, myself, NACOB, and the relevant stakeholders. We looked at all the issues involved, as to whether there was cocaine missing or not, I don’t think anybody can tell you that. And I’m telling you that the report is misleading. There was no cocaine in Tema Port in anybody’s custody which got missing.”

He continued: “We have done investigations, BNI has done investigation, NACOB is doing investigations. It is expected that we will know what exactly the story is; whether there is cocaine at all or not. On authority, I can tell you that I’m not aware of any cocaine shipment.”

“I’m the head of Customs at Tema Port and I’m not aware of cocaine shipment. I am telling you categorically that I am not aware of any missing cocaine at Tema Port. If somebody says so, perhaps he has some facts I don’t have,” he told Accra-based Citi FM on Friday, 28 April.

Speaking on this development on 505 on Class 91.3FM on Friday, Mr Agbey said: “As we speak now, it is a bit difficult for us to accept the report coming from the Finder newspaper. I say so because of the fact that the Customs Excise and Preventive Service has actually denied the fact that there has been such a cocaine scandal or whatever it is.

“So it is making it a bit difficult for us to discuss the issue as we would have wanted to actually discuss it unless the Finder gentleman, the editor, proves otherwise that he has substantial evidence that suggests that ‘Yes, cocaine actually entered into our shores at the Tema Harbour without the knowledge of the customs people and other security agencies that were supposed to take charge and take responsibility to make sure that those people who actually brought the cocaine are arrested.’

“…At this moment, it is not good for some of us to critically digest the issue as we would have wished to deal with it. I don’t like conjecturing. As somebody who understands security-related issues, you need to speak to the fact, you need to have a lot of evidence so that when you are discussing the subject you can profile a certain level of solution to the problem. But as it is now, it is a bit doubtful for us to be able to do genuine contribution to knowledge as far as this subject of cocaine scandal is concerned.”

Source:http://www.ghanaweb.com

Some MPs flouting law by holding dual citizenship – Ablakwa

Following the allegations of visa fraud against some MPs, a Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has described as an “open secret” the fact some Members of Parliament also hold dual citizenship in violation of Ghana’s laws.

In a statement on his Facebook page in the wake of the allegations contained in a leaked letter from the British High Commission, Mr. Ablakwa said he was “elated” the letter was in the public domain as it would promote “frank discussions in the true spirit of transparency and good governance.”

“In any case, before this leak, this was the most poorly kept secret by the British High Commission as many of us including journalists have known about this for a considerable period of time perhaps even before the said 20th January 2017 letter was written and dispatched to the Right Honourable Speaker,” he stated further.

In addition to this, Mr. Ablakwa noted that “the other poorly kept secret is the claim that there are some MPs holding dual citizenship in violation of Article 94 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Ghana. Again, I will contend that it’s better to see some swift concrete action on this particular issue instead of it being used by some people for smear and blackmail within diplomatic circles.”

Mr. Ablakwa also said the revelations raised larger issues of how Parliamentary Candidates are vetted within political parties, as well as the collaborative role of the Electoral Commission, National Security, and Diplomatic Missions.

“It must be understood very clearly, that if confirmed, what the three sitting Members of Parliament (MP) and a former MP are alleged to have done cannot be endorsed and must deserve strong condemnation and possible sanctions if need be.”

“It is, therefore, commendable that Mr. Speaker has taken a serious view of this matter and has instituted the needed investigations. This is what is expected of working democracies just as the US Congress is currently doing in the case of General Michael Flynn,” the MP added.

These allegations were revealed in the contents of a letter written by the UK High Commissioner to the Speaker of Parliament indicating that three sitting MPs and one former MP breached UK visa regulations by facilitating the entry of some of their supposed relatives to the UK using their Diplomatic Passports.

The letter cited Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East in the Western Region; Joseph Benhazin Dahah, MP for Asutifi North in the Brong Ahafo Region; Johnson Kwaku Adu, MP for Ahafo Ano South West in the Ashanti Region and George Boakye, former MP for Asunafo South in the Brong Ahafo.

Find below Mr. Ablakwa’s full statement

I have followed media discussions of British High Commissioner Jon Benjamin’s letter to the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament with much interest as the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In contrast to those who have questioned why the said confidential letter was leaked to the media, I take a different view. I am elated this letter is now available to the media and the general public for open and frank discussions in the true spirit of transparency and good governance. This must be good for our country.

In any case, before this leak, this was the most poorly kept secret by the British High Commission as many of us including journalists have known about this for a considerable period of time perhaps even before the said 20th January, 2017 letter was written and dispatched to the Right Honourable Speaker.

The other poorly kept secret is the claim that there are some MPs holding dual citizenship in violation of Article 94 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Ghana. Again, I will contend that it’s better to see some swift concrete action on this particular issue instead of it being used by some people for smear and blackmail within diplomatic circles.

This definitely raises larger issues of how Parliamentary Candidates are vetted within our political parties and the collaborative role of the Electoral Commission, National Security and Diplomatic Missions; a discussion we will have to return to at a later date.

It must be understood very clearly, that if confirmed, what the three sitting Members of Parliament (MP) and a former MP are alleged to have done cannot be endorsed and must deserve strong condemnation and possible sanctions if need be. It is therefore commendable that Mr. Speaker has taken a serious view of this matter and has instituted the needed investigations. This is what is expected of working democracies just as the US Congress is currently doing in the case of General Michael Flynn.

Reading through Jon Benjamin’s letter however, one cannot help but notice a rather regrettable colonial mindset. He writes:

“Given what has transpired, the British High Commission would request the Ghanaian Parliament to be aware of the following:

a) we will henceforth only entertain and prioritise requests for visas from MPs, if they are made through the parliamentary protocol office who should verify that there is an official, parliamentary reason for the proposed visit;

b) however, MPs wishing to make private visits to the UK or to be accompanied on official visits by non-official relatives must apply online and through our Visa Application Centre at the Movenpick Hotel like any other applicant;

c) could you kindly confirm whether and why it is legitimate for ex-MPs to continue to possess and use diplomatic passports, in some cases for many years after they have ceased to be parliamentarians? In that regard, we would humbly like to ask, Mr Speaker, what procedures are in place to ensure that diplomatic passports are removed forthwith from all those 133 former Members who have just ceased to be MPs?

d) the net effect of such visa fraud by a very few Honourable MPs as outlined in this letter is to raise the bar of suspicion against all such applicants, which is of course regrettably to the huge disadvantage of those very many MPs who do act honourably at all times.”

Quite clearly, to Mr. Jon Benjamin, issuing visas to Ghanaian MPs is such a great favour and a reward for good group behaviour. Therefore, because three sitting MPs may have misconducted themselves, all 275 MPs must now face the Head Master’s (if not the colonial Governor’s) wrath and sanctions. Such utter disrespect for our Parliament and our country regardless is most unacceptable.

If this is Mr. Benjamin’s mindset even in dealing with the people’s representatives, then one can begin to wonder how he treats the applications of the people of Ghana.

Never mind that visa application processes are not free and that the high fees most Ghanaians complain about are not refundable to applicants. Never mind that Ghanaians including thousands of fee paying students who travel to Britain do so with our own money which must be of some use to the British economy, Never mind that the UK Parliamentary Expenses Scandal of 2009 involved more than 300 MPs, (NOT 3 as in Ghana’s case), with at least 6 of these UK MPs going to jail and yet no bar of suspicion has been raised by any Ghanaian “Head Master” in extending diplomatic courtesies to UK MPs but I guess that is the world we live in.

Mr. Jon Benjamin amazingly had no diplomatic difficulties whatsoever in over stepping boundaries and lecturing our Speaker, our President through his Secretary, our Chief of Staff and our Foreign Minister on how diplomatic passports ought to be used and retrieved.

Absolutely unbelievable! And by the way, Mr. Benjamin cannot be right when he asserts that MPs continue to use diplomatic passports “MANY YEARS” after they cease to be MPs when he knows that these diplomatic passports are valid for only five years while admittedly an MPs term is four years.

The exaggeration was totally uncalled-for. He also knows that by practice these diplomatic passports are withdrawn upon ceasing to hold public office even if the retrieval is fraught with some challenges as all human institutions encounter.

Even though many of us have had concern about the modus operandi and non-diplomatic tendencies of the top-most British diplomat in Accra, I will not advocate hostility or reciprocal action on British MPs who will require visa services to visit Ghana as some have suggested because it is entirely possible that Mr. Benjamin’s conduct and social media pontifications may not represent official British Government position. Fortunately, we have some good recent experience as a country in containing interesting High Commissioners since the days of Craig John Murray and more significantly, we should never forget that their postings to Ghana are not the least permanent.

What is permanent and which we must all continue to cherish is the unique bond of history and friendship that exists between our two countries which must constantly remind us that in the final analysis only mutual respect and equal rights triumph.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (MP)

Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament.

Source:ghanaweb.com

Four in coma, several injured in Nsawam accident

Four persons are in coma while about 13 others are seriously injured in a gory accident which occurred Saturday morning near Nsawam on the Accra-Kumasi stretch of the Highway.

The victims have been rushed to the Nsawam government hospital for treatment. The accident involved a Sprinter passenger vehicle from heading to Accra from Kumasi.

According to eyewitnesses, the accident occurred when the driver of the sprinter vehicle attempted to regain control of his vehicle after bursting a tyre. The vehicle reportedly somersaulted a number of times before landing in a nearby bush.

The injured are mostly women and their little children. Residents living around the accident scene went to the rescue of the victims and helped remove those trapped in the car.

Starr News Eastern regional Correspondent, Kojo Ansah, who has visited the scene reports that the sprinter vehicle has been mangled. He said stains of blood were seen at the scene.

Ibrahim Mahama sued for non-payment of workers’ SSNIT contributions

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has dragged Engineers and Planners and the company’s CEO and Directors to court for failing to pay social security contributions of its staff as required by law.

However, the CEO of the company, Ibrahim Mahama – the younger brother of former President John Dramani Mahama –Kwadwo Aboagye-Attah, its director, and Sidney Aubrey Steyn, Managing Director, failed to make their first appearance in court on Saturday 29 April. Meanwhile, the company’s Executive Director, Sulemana Ahmed Amidu, was present at the district court in Accra and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

He was granted bail in the sum of GHS10,000 and the case adjourned to May 13.

As required by the National Pensions Act of 2008, Act 766, an employer is expected to pay social security on behalf of the employees at the end of every month.

However, officers at SSNIT said an inspection of the books of the company revealed that from February 2015 to July 2015, June 2016 to August 2016, and in October 2016, the SSNIT contributions of employees, amounting to GHS668,754.75, had not been paid.

According to SSNIT, the amount attracted a penalty of GHS387,709.31, bringing the total indebtedness of the accused to GHS1,056,464.06.

Source:Ghanaweb.com

$30m worth of cocaine vanishes at Tema Port

Investigations by The Finder have revealed that Ghana’s image in the comity of nations has once again being heavily dented as the country failed another major test in the fight against drugs.

The finder can report that 10 bags of suspected cocaine, each weighing 50kgs (500kgs in all) hidden in a consignment of rice with an estimated street value of about $30million has vanished from the Tema Port under mysterious circumstances.

Surprisingly officers under whose watch this happened are still at post at the Tema Port.

According to our sources, a ship carrying some containers with cocaine onboard arrived in Tema Port in December 2016 but the suspected cocaine vanished before February 23 2017 when all stakeholders conducted compulsory tests on the container.

It is learnt that K9 Dogs which are specially trained to detect cocaine confirmed traces of cocaine in the said container while UK’s Operation West Bridge also conducted sampling by the use of itemisers which also confirmed traced of cocaine.

The Finder further learnt that separate investigations conducted on the suspected missing cocaine by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and Customs have been submitted to the Interior Minister and the Attorney General’s offices.

Five Containers for Scanning

The Investigations indicated that when the ship arrived, the identification of containers selected for sampling were FSCU-7559200, IRNU-2610834, CCLU-3224764, TRHU-1653800 and TRLU-8778855.

All these were 20-footer containers and each contained 550 bags of white long grain rice according to the bill of lading.

According to the sources, the containers were kept at Depot Surveillance.

UNODC/Suriname Provided Intelligence

On October 24, 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with Suriname authorities alerted the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) of a ship from Suriname in South America carrying the said cocaine in Tema Port in Ghana.

NACOB Boss Alerted Tema Port Narcotics Analyst

Sources familiar with the matter told the Finder that on the said day, NACOB head office, informed Felicia Wuaku, a Narcotics Analyst who is the head of the Joint Port Control Unit (JPCU) at Tema Port and all stakeholders were informed accordingly.

Tema Port Narcotics Analyst Informs Other Stakeholders

Sources at NACOB said on December 7 2016, Felicia Wuaku wrote letters to other stakeholders but Customs received their letters on December 8 2016.

According to the investigations, for over two months, the importer did not show up to clear the rice. As a result, the Finder learnt that NACOB, in the first week of February, fixed February 25, 2017 to undertake compulsory scanning of the container and inform all stakeholders.

However, NACOB sources said on February 2d, 2017, intelligence indicate that one of the containers with identification number TRHU-1653800 was moved to Golden Jubilee Terminal without the knowledge of NACOB.

Subsequently, NACOB quickly called all stakeholders on February 23, 2017 for compulsory examination of the container which was believed to contain the cocaine.

Agencies Present At Scanning

Agencies present during the opening of the container for testing are: NACOB, K9 Unit (Special Dogs Academy), UK’s Operation WestBridge Officials, Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, National Security, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

A Joint Port Control Unit was represented by Felicia Wuaku, Francis Worlanyo Kpegah and Henry Asarfo Brain.

When the container was opened, it was realised that 10 bags, each weighing 50kgs were missing from the consignment – in other words, 500kgs suspected to be the pure cocaine had been removed by persons yet to be identified.

K9 Dogs, itemisers confirmed traces of pure cocaine.

However, when sampling was conducted on the rice, K9 Security Dogs and sampling by the use of itemisers of Operation West Bridge team both confirmed traces of pure cocaine.

Questions for JPCU

According to the Finder’s investigations, questions are being asked as to why the head of JPCU, Felicia Wuaku, instead of detailing a surveillance team to keep the containers in sight 24hours, left that duty to GPHA Head of Security while a two-member NACOB Surveillance Team only visited Depot 10 intermittently to ensure that the containers were there.

NACOB blames Customs

NACOB sources said their investigations revealed that GPHA and Customs officials moved the container to Golden Jubilee Terminal on request from the importer to have the rice tested without informing NACOB.

Customs Debunks Allegation

However, Confidence Nyadzie, Tema Sector Commander of Customs, described the accusations levelled against Customs as baseless.

Response of Operations West Bridge

When contacted, the UK High Commission on behalf of Operation West Bridge sent this email response: “The UK Government represented by the British High Commission has a long and fruitful relation with Ghanaian law enforcement agencies. We are unable to comment on specific cases.”

Information on Importer

On the bill of lading, Joro Farms and Agricultural Processing Limited, located at Kaneshie in Accra is named as the importer of the rice from Caribbean Grain Industry in Suriname.

The Finder contacted the importer who declined to give his name but denied knowledge of cocaine hidden in his consignment of rice but admitted that NACOB had questioned over the said missing cocaine.

A Case of Rip Off

However, sources in the intelligence community told the Finder that the cocaine could be a case of rip off which in drug law enforcement means smart drug lords outsmarting importers and exporters by putting drugs in consignments but removing them before examination in circumstances where the importer or exporter has no knowledge.

The Work Of A Cabal In Tema Port

The sources also added that it could be a case of a cabal at Tema Port which took advantage of loopholes in security arrangements by JPCU or possibly some JPCU members could have been involved in the smuggling of the cocaine out of the Port.

Source:ghanaweb.com

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