Crime & Punishment of 2014-01-20

Police grab six scammers

Six people have been arrested for allegedly orchestrating a '419 scam' to dupe hundreds of Ghanaians of thousands of Ghana cedis.

The suspects are linked to the Mass Social Welfare Scheme, an organisation which claims to be engaged in a social intervention project targeted at alleviating poverty among five million Ghanaians.

The names of the six suspects were given by the Sowutuom Police as Francis Atta-Agyapong Junior, the Director of Operations of the company; Mawuli Agbota, an accounts officer; Samuel Nyamekye, an administrative assistant; Robert Atsrim, the Assistant Director of Operations; Patrick Quansah, a network engineer, and Solomon Lamptey, an operations officer.

Two others who are believed to be the masterminds of the scheme — Elikplim de-ben Selassie, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mass Social Welfare Scheme, and Ofosu Boateng, Head of Protocol — are currently on the run.

Victims

Some of the victims of the scam are politicians, businesses, individuals and employees of the company.

According to the Odorkor District Police Commander, Superintendent Abraham Acquaye, 250 employees of the company who had to pay GHC225 each before gaining employment for a monthly salary of GHC500 or GHC600 had also been duped of millions of cedis by their employers.

Other victims of the organisation include companies which acted as suppliers and individuals, mostly public sector workers and those in the informal sector.

A number of companies which had supplied items such as cars, cement, roofing sheets, iron rods, rice, cooking oil, generators, home - appliances, among others, are said to have told the police that —cheques issued by de-ben Selassie were dud.

The items, according to the police, were retailed to registered members of the scheme on a hire purchase basis without interest.

Since the arrest of the suspects, more than 100 victims have reported their cases to the Odorkor Police.

Complaints

According to Supt Acquaye, two complainants, Kwabena Opoku and Kwabena Dugan, reported to the Sowutuom Police that managers of the Mass Social Welfare Scheme had fleeced them of thousands of cedis.

He said investigations into the complaints established that the organisation, also known as the Millennium Development Project, which had widely been advertised in the media, was a scam.

According to the police commander, the organisation, which claimed to help meet the social needs of the public, had been launched at the Accra International Conference Centre as a non-profit company in April 2013.

Services

The benefits provided by the organisation included top-up medical insurance to take care of the health needs of its members, educational grants, supply of building materials, access to an affordable housing scheme, the provision of business set-up capital and community infrastructure.

European partners and government support

Supt Acquaye said managers of the scheme claimed they had strategic partners in Europe who supported the scheme financially, while the government of Ghana was involved in the project which guaranteed assistance in social security services.

At the launch of the scheme in April 2013, its managers announced that it had a workforce of about 2,900 officers across the country.

Supt Acquaye said the police were yet to establish if the scheme had been registered with the Registrar-General’s Department, adding that “even if it was registered, we will have to find out if it was registered as a non­governmental organisation or a company”.