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Crime & Punishment of Monday, 11 April 2005

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?4Billion In Foreign Cash Stolen At Airport?

A businessman of Lebanese origin, Jebelle Ghassan, is allegedly helping the police in their investigations into the attempted illegal transfer of various foreign currencies, equivalent to over ?4 billion from Ghana to Lebanon through Middle East Airlines.

The money, which comprised 181,000 pound sterling, 143,000 dollars and 14,000 euros, however apparently got stolen at the Accra airport, according to the police.

Ghassan, 52, was arrested when he went back to the airline's office to report the loss of the money. He was arrested for contravening the Ghana Exchange Control Act 71, for trying to transfer the money illegally. The Act 71 clearly sets out the legal procedures that must be followed money from the country.

The Criminal Investigations Department is also investigating the theft, which is said to have occurred before the luggage was put on the aircraft. The Deputy Director of the CID, Patrick K. Ampewuah, told the Times that on April 2, Ghassan checked in some luggage on behalf of his sister-in-law on a flight to Lebanon.

However, a customs officer later requested to have the luggage examined, but it could not be located until the next morning, Sunday, which was the closing period for checking in for that flight. Efforts were made to contact Ghassan but when he could not be reached after some time, the customs officer, together with airline officials, security personnel and aviation officials decided to open the luggage, but then realized that the seal had been broken.

Mr Ampewuah said that the team finally reached Ghassan, told him about the broken seal and requested information on the comments of the luggage but he declined to list the contents.

Thereafter, the bag was resealed and sent on board the plane to its destination. On Monday, April 4, Ghassan went to the airline to report that his luggage arrived at its destination without its contents of various foreign currencies. The airline officials informed the police and Ghassan was arrested. His British passport has been confiscated by the police and he is currently on police enquiry bail. He will be arraigned before court soon.