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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Columnist: Nana Yaw Obuoba

The legitimization of NAM1 by the President, Otumfour and the Chief Imam

For a man who came to prominence from relative obscurity and controlled huge wealth, there is very little known about Nana Appiah Mensah, popularly known as NAM1’s background or how he came about his wealth. You would have thought that authorities in this country especially the National Security apparatus would have taken interest and looked into the background of such a person especially as he was blowing/investing millions lavishly and some may say, unwisely.

Were any background checks done on NAM1 and how he acquired the millions he was investing? If yes, what were the findings? If no, why not?

Ghanaians deserve answers from the President and his handlers.

The owner of Menzgold also had the privilege of meeting the leader of the Muslim faith in Ghana, the Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu. A Menzgold client who is Muslim confessed to me that after seeing the photo of his leader with NAM1, that gave him the confidence to invest in the business. According to him, he planned to invest GHS 600,000 but increased it to GHS 1,000,000. That is power and influence a photo with the Chief Imam had.

We can only imagine how many more clients were influenced by these photos of NAM1 with the President of Ghana, the Chief Imam and the Otumfour.

There was also a photo of the Menzgold CEO meeting the former President Kuffour and you really have to wonder if all these respected leaders and their handlers cared to look into the background of the man they were meeting. It is only right and proper that these eminent persons come out to explain to Ghanaians and admit their roles in legitimizing NAM1 and his Menzgold. This cannot be glossed over.

The Ghana Police Service and the CID would also have to explain to us how a guy with criminal background was able to operate so freely and without any hindrance. Why was a blind eye turned by the Police and CID? Is it the money factor?

I know the general consensus amongst Ghanaians is that “the Menzgold clients were warned several times” Yes, this is true. There were several notices from the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and one from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Let us delve a bit deeper into the ‘warnings’ from BoG. But before that, here’s some background about Menzgold. The company started out as MenzBank and later rebranded to MenzBanc and finally, to their current brand name, Menzgold. The suspicion from the timeline of engagement between the authorities and MenzBank-MenzBanc-Menzgold is that the company changed name and tact each time BoG closed in on them for operating illegally and without a license for taking deposits.

The final change from MenzBanc to Menzgold had the company changing it modus operandi with the introduction of a subsidiary named ‘Brew Marketing Limited’. A move ostensibly designed to get BoG to back off from their business.

Now, back to the public notices (warnings) from BoG. In between the changes from MenzBank-MenzBanc-Menzgold, the BoG had issued warnings to the public specifically about the unlicensed deposit-taking of the company. The company and it’s owner pushed back each time there were such warnings insisting that they were not engaged in deposit-taking and that their operations did not fall under the ambit of BoG. As things stand now, it is not BoG that has determined that Menzgold is operating illegally neither is it BoG that issued a shutdown directive to Menzgold.

It is the SEC. So, let’s zero in on the SEC and their role (or, lack of) in all of this.

The Complete Failure Of SEC As A Regulator

Let me state, first of all, that in the timeline of engagements between the authorities and MenzBank-MenzBanc-Menzgold which spans from October 2014 to June 2018, the SEC is completely missing in action and it is mainly BoG and Minerals Commission, to a lesser extent, who are the authorities featured in this timeline. From my research, I came across a public notice from the SEC on their website dated 22nd September, 2017 in which they were simply informing the public that Menzgold was not licensed by the SEC to operate in the Capital market.

As we all know, the SEC, a year after their public notice found reason and basis to determine that Menzgold were operating illegally and directed Menzgold to shutdown their trading in gold collectibles.

Let me be blunt here. From my understanding and research on this Menzgold issue, it is clear to me that there has been a complete failure on the part of the SEC to protect Ghanaian investors especially the unsuspecting and uninformed ones.

And, this is why I hold this stance.

The SEC have been aware of Menzgold since 2017 and yet, only found reason to issue a notice informing the public that Menzgold were not licensed by them. Between September 2017 and August 2018 (a full 12 months) when the SEC refer to a visit they made to Menzgold’s head office; what tangible steps did the SEC take to ascertain whether or not Menzgold were operating illegally and then act accordingly?

The SEC cannot claim ignorance about the scale of patronage in Menzgold and/or the potential risks and consequences for the investors and the financial sector so, why did it take them so long to finally act decisively?

Even the timing of their intervention is interesting because a little over a week before the SEC’s intervention, there was a news story with the headline ‘Menzgold Clients Furious Over Delay In Dividend Payment; Company Says Money Coming’. Was the business near it’s collapse already and was the SEC intervention designed to give Menzgold a legitimate cover to fold up; or was the timing just coincidental?