Business News of Thursday, 14 March 2013
Source: Graphic Business
The Director of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Mr Biadela Mortey Apkdzi, has called for the depoliticisation of investigations into organised crimes in the country.
According to him, this will afford EOCO the free hand to undertake its duties to the best of its ability and in the interest of the nation.
He warned that the corrupt practices such as money laundering among others have serious international implications on the country and indicated that unless the practice was stopped with the full support of the general public, EOCO can achieve very little.
Speaking at the 50th anniversary public lecture organised by the Business School of the University of Ghana on the topic; Investigating Money Laundering Cases in Ghana: “The Experience of the Economic and Organised Crime Office”, he said “some of the cases we handle have so politicised that it impedes our effort to do what we are to do”.
Without mincing words, he said some of the cases that are being handled now involve influential people in society adding that to have their way; they play the party card to win the sympathies of their supporters.
There have been many instances in the country where public officials hauled to the courts or are also being investigated by EOCO are able to win the sympathies of supporters of political parties.
These party sympathisers demonstrate loudly around the court rooms or the police stations in their quest to politicise the arrest or investigation, a situation which puts pressure on those conducting the investigation. In many instances, the cases are discontinued and the culprits are left off the hook.
Mr Akpadzi however, noted that, in spite of the challenge, EOCO would not relent in its attempt to ensure that those who have committed financial crimes are brought to book irrespective of their party affiliations.
He said under the Anti-Money laundering Act, 2008, ‘A person commits an offence if he knows or ought to have known that the property is or forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activity and he; converts, conceals, disguises or transfers the property; conceals or disguises the unlawful origin of the property or acquires, uses or takes possession of the property”.
Mr Akpadzi said EOCO has the powers to freeze, seize and confiscate assets as well as prohibit cyber activities among others; a mandate it was pursuing rigorously in spite of the myriad of challenges.
Between the years 2000 and 2007, Ghana caught the world’s attention as a result of the high incidence of narcotic drugs trafficking, the discovery of oil in commercial quantities and the license issued to Barclays Bank Ghana Limited to operate offshore banking. Consequently, the country was perceived as a weak anti money laundering (AML) jurisdiction.
Ghana was later blacklisted after a report that indicated among others that, there is increasing incidence of drug trafficking and the huge inflows of cash into the country which are strongly suspected to be laundered funds.
The report mentioned the surge in expensive real estate purchases paid for in cash and in United States dollars and; the apparent lack of public awareness of the phenomenon of money laundering and harmful effects as some of the reasons for its action.
In response, Ghana increased its commitments to fighting money laundering by establishing the Financial Intelligence Centre, passing the Anti-Money-Laundering Act of 2008 that requires that a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) with a legal personality and common seal be established among many other Acts passed to check the canker.
Ghana’s effort to fight the canker has been rewarded as the Financial Action task Force (FATF) has delisted Ghana from the group of blacklisted countries. To Mr Akpadzi, Ghana can only maintain its status if the public becomes more vigilant an supportive of the work of EOCO to stop the criminal activities from all fronts instead of supporting those they consider their favorites.