A Nigerian national, resident in Ghana, and four others including two lawyers are being prosecuted by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) for fraud, forgery and money laundering.
The Nigerian national, Sunny Anwamini, alias Sunny Enyindah Anwamini, is purported to have connived with four other persons, namely: Vivian Awinongya Agongo (wife of Sunny), William Femeyibor (alias William Adwere), Andrew Kudzo Vortia and John Mark Bekui to defraud a Ukrainian Investor, one Mazen Farakh.
Two of the accused persons – John Mark Bekui and Andrew Vortia – are lawyers hired by the Investor to provide legal and advisory services to the complainant to protect his investment in the transaction whilst he was outside the jurisdiction.
However, they turned out abetting Sunny Anwamini to defraud the Complainant the sum of $6.5 million.
The facts gleaned from the charge sheet is that sometime between 2017 and 2022, Mazen Farakh, (the Complainant) met Sunny Anwamini whom he then knew as Sunny Addossi through a friend by name Philomene Roberto.
That upon meeting each other, Sunny falsely represented to Mazen Farakh that he could export teak wood from Ghana to him in Ukraine.
He claimed that he had large quantities of teak wood in various bonded warehouses in Ghana but he needed funds to enable him to obtain Export Clearance License and process other documentation from government agencies including but not limited to the Forestry Commission and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in order to enable him export the said product.
Sunny in an effort to substantiate his false representations introduced William Femeyibor (who is the 3rd accused) to Mazen Farakh as an Exporter who would ship the teak abroad to the Complainant.
The 3rd Accused person subsequently aided Sunny by producing fake Export and Shipping Documents to deceive the Investor.
The two lawyers, Andrew Vortia and John Mark Bekui, the 4th and 5th accused persons respectively, were engaged by the Complainant to facilitate the transaction of buying and exporting the teakwood outside of the jurisdiction.
Somehow, these two lawyers aided Sunny in his orchestrated scheme to defraud the Complainant by confirming the false representations made by Sunny to be true though they knew same to be false.
Sunny Enyindah Anwamini and the four accused persons were arrested by Officers of EOCO in 2022 in the course of investigations.
The five accused persons have subsequently been charged at the High Court, Financial and Economic Division 2 with the following offences:
a. Conspiracy to defraud contrary to sections 23(1) and 131 (1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29),
b. Uttering Forged Documents contrary to section 169 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29),
c. Defrauding by false Pretence contrary to section 131(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), and
d. Money laundering contrary to section 1(2) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2020 (Act 1044).
EOCO, also in accordance with its mandate, has frozen various properties of Sunny Anwamini including vehicles and wrist watches worth over $1 million whilst the case is pending in court.
The Complainant has also petitioned the General Legal Council (GLC) over the alleged professional misconduct of the two lawyers.
The law regulating the professional conduct of lawyer is the Legal Profession Act, 1960 (Act 32), and Legal Profession (Professional Conduct & Etiquette) Rules, 2020 (LI 2423) which requires lawyers preserve the dignity of the profession, discharge their duties with fairness, courtesy and good faith.
It also requires lawyers to uphold the dignity of the court, the laws of Ghana and to maintain his own dignity, honor and integrity.
Based on the facts and the applicable laws above, the Complainant petitioned the GLC to investigate the lawyers believing that they have a case to answer.
These kinds of scheme are typically what is known as Advance Fee Fraud (419) and is very prevalent in Nigeria.
“Over the years we have seen many Nigerians moving to Ghana and engaging in this kind of scheme,” a statement said on Thursday, February 8.
Though the Government of Ghana has declared Ghana as a safe place to do business and has implemented various policies to promote Foreign Direct Investments into Ghana fraudulent schemes such as this go a long way to undermine the efforts being made by the government to attract foreign Investors into the country.
“This case is therefore of paramount importance because it sends a signal to the world that the laws work in Ghana.
“It also protects and enhances Ghana’s interest, image and reputation globally as a safe destination for Investors with a strong Judiciary that shall provide justice when disputes arise or criminal acts are perpetuated against innocent Investors like Mr. Farakh.
“The Judiciary plays a key role in the criminal justice system and a strong, independent Judiciary increases confidence of foreign Investors.
“Similarly, a weak Judiciary takes away Investor confidence which in effect will lead to economic and financial losses to Ghana.”
EOCO and the government for that matter must use this case to send a strong message to persons involved in various scams, advance fee fraud (419), romance fraud, identity fraud and other serious offences, that Ghana will not tolerate these fraudulent activities. The law should definitely deal with these criminals to essentially boost investor confidence which over the years have dwindled due to these criminal activities. This hopefully will serve as a deterrence to other persons that crime does not pay and that the law shall catch up with you eventually and you shall face serious consequences including imprisonment and the loss of the proceeds of crime amongst others.
Ghanaian institutions such as EOCO exist to investigate and prosecute these perpetrators. But they must do more by taking tangible and necessary steps to prevent these fraudsters from undermining Government efforts of making Ghana an investor friendly environment.