Controversies and more: Col. Damoah's journey as customs boss and how it ended

Col. Damoah Customs?resize=1000%2C600&ssl=1 Colonel Kwadwo Damoah

Tue, 30 Aug 2022 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

On Monday, August 29, 2022, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, through his Executive Secretary, issued sacking orders to the Commissioner of the Customs Divisions of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Colonel Yeboah Damoah (Retired).

The announcement ended the tenure of Colonel Damoah, who has, in the past weeks, been in the news for corruption and corruption-related issues as the head of Customs.

Damoah’s appointment as Customs boss

Colonel Kwadwo Damoah assumed the post as Commissioner for the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority on May 30, 2019, following a shake-up.

His appointment was confirmed in May 2020.

Labianca gate

The Office of the Special Prosecutor, on August 3, 2022, released a report on its investigations into alleged corruption and corruption-related offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

The report by the OSP, among other things, implicated officials of Labianca and the Customs Division of the GRA for their various roles, which saw the company that deals in the importation of frozen foods benefiting from a reduction in the company's tax liabilities.

One of the big names mentioned by the OSP is the Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Colonel (Rtd.) Kwadwo Damoah.

The special prosecutor, in his investigations, found that a deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, Joseph Adu Kyei, issued an unlawful customs advance ruling for imports made by Labianca.

This reduced the values of intended imports between 5 and 10 percent below the benchmark values.

According to the report, the ruling was said to have been approved by Col. Damoah and did not appear to have been brought to the notice of the Commissioner-General.

"Customs advance rulings are ordinarily issued by the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority. The OSP finds that for practical purposes customs advance rulings are issued by the Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

The propriety or otherwise of this practice is not the object of the present investigation, and the OSP did not find any probable cause to involve the Commissioner-General in this investigation at this stage. This is because the purported customs advance ruling issued by Mr. Adu Kyei and apparently approved by Colonel (Rtd.) Damoah did not appear to have been brought to the notice of the Commissioner-General," the OSP's report said.

The report also noted that Col. Damoah "acknowledged the disingenuity of the outcome by admitting that the applicants did not meet the legal requirements for the issuance of customs advance ruling."

Col. Damoah's response to Special Prosecutor's indictment

In his immediate response to the Special Prosecutor's announcement, Col. Damoah tagged the report as a deliberate attempt by the OSP to malign him.

Reacting to the report, Col. Kwadwo Damoah said he had received a hint about the said report from the Special Prosecutor's Office prior to its publication. Following that, he added, he (Col. Kwadwo Damoah) sent a warning to the Office of the SP to desist from any attempts to denigrate his hard-earned reputation because he would not succeed at it.

"Three days ago, a report purported to be coming from the Office of the Special Prosecutor trying to indict the Deputy Commissioner of Operations and myself [but] anybody who has read that report very well will know the basis of that," he said while addressing some Senior Customs officers at a retreat in Kumasi.

"And luckily for me, God is always on my side; before that report came, that person had made a comment to some people who had come to tell me [that] he [Special Prosecutor] was going to publish that will discredit me…and I sent people to go and tell him that he is a small boy and I am older than him, I have lived a meaningful life, and if he attempts to destroy me, it won't be easy for him. People have tried and I have survived, and this one too, I will survive it," Starrfm.com quoted Col Damoah as having added.

OSP piles up pressure

Before the dust on the Labianca case would settle, the Special Prosecutor announced another investigation involving Col. Damoah's work as head of Customs.

In a statement issued on August 22, 2022, the Special Prosecutor announced the commencement of an investigation into auction sales of vehicles and other goods by the Customs Division.

The investigation, according to the OSP, was on suspicion of corruption and corruption-related offences in the auction sales.

"The Office of the Special Prosecutor has commenced investigation into suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of auction sales of vehicles and other goods by the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority between July 1, 2016, and August 15 2022," the statement said.

According to the Special Prosecutor, he has since written to demand some details from the Commissioner of the Customs Division to support his investigation.

Kissi Agyebeng said he has further directed the "Commissioner of the Customs Division to immediately halt and discontinue all auction sales till the investigation is concluded."

Reports of 2021 tax evasion investigation on Col. Damoah

Following recent reports about Col. Kwadwo Damoah, Starrfm.com.gh reported about a 2021 investigation by the Commissioner General of GRA into a case of alleged tax evasion.

The investigation, which named Col. Damoah as a person of interest, was on the request of the then National Security Coordinator, Edward Asomani.

Mr Asomani, in a letter written to Rev. Dr. Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, indicated that a team of Customs Intelligence Officers led by one John Agbawu, on October 21, 2022, intercepted two cargo trucks at Dzorwulu, near the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra, with the assistance of National Security operatives.

The team arrested the cargo trucks on suspicion of under-declaration and misdescription of goods.

The officers subsequently escorted the trucks which were coming from the Aflao Border to the Customs Laboratory Division at the Airport Roundabout for re-examination.

However, according to the National Security boss, the owners of the goods, who were discourteous towards the arresting officers, allegedly placed a call to Col. Damoah over their arrest.

"It needs stating that, during the interception, the traders were discourteous towards the arresting officers, with one of them allegedly placing a call to Col. DAMOAH, Commissioner of CD-GRA. Subsequently, AGBAWU received a call from one Kojo BONSU, Staff Officer to the Commissioner, instructing him to release the trucks unconditionally," the document said.

The leader of the arresting team is said to have received another call from a Deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, Adu Kyei, who also issued an instruction for the release of the trucks.

"Additionally, the trader who placed the call to Col. DAMOAH recorded the arresting officers on video, to be forwarded to him.

"Given the implications of this development, particularly those related to tax evasion, on the domestic revenue mobilization efforts of GRA, your outfit is urged to investigate the matter and update this Ministry accordingly," the letter signed by Edward Asomani, who is now the National Security Coordinator, added.

It emerged that Col. Damoah, in response to the GRA's investigation into the matter, denied the allegations describing them as frivolous and unsubstantiated.

According to excerpts of the investigation published by Adomonline.com, Colonel Damoah, when called to answer the allegations, denied the allegations.

According to the customs boss, he was not aware some trucks were impounded and also did not issue any orders for the release of the trucks.

"I had no information about the arrest for which I am wrongly accused of wrongdoing. It is quite unfortunate that such serious, unfounded, unsubstantiated, frivolous, and vexatious allegations could be made against me by a person bent on destroying my hard-won reputation of over thirty years of public service," Adomonline.com quoted him.

Colonel Damoah explained that he had travelled to Akanu-Noepe with the Minister for Foreign Affairs to meet with a Togolese delegation and the Commissioner for Infrastructure of the ECOWAS Commission for a Ministerial Meeting on the Operationalization of the Akanu-Noepe Joint Border Post (JBP).

He noted that his trip from there continued to the Aflao border post from Akanu-Noepe.

"We left Aflao after 7 pm on that fateful day and arrived in Accra at about 10 pm. I wish to reiterate that I did not receive any calls from the so-called importer associated with the arrest of the said two cargo trucks, and I anxiously welcome any further investigations into the matter," he stated.

The Commissioner General of GRA, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, after the investigation, wrote back to the National Security Coordinator with his brief.

"All the officers denied that they made or received calls from any importer whatsoever on that day. It is instructive to note that the Commissioner of customs, in his response, vehemently denied the said allegations. Any further development would be communicated to you," the GRA boss stated.

Col. Damoah sacked

In the heat of the many controversies involving Col. Yeboah Damoah, some critics pointed out that the former military officer had long exceeded the mandatory retirement age and should be made to go home.

This was in addition to several calls for his removal from office.

A letter signed by the Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, on October 13, 2021, directed Col. Damoah to hand over his office.

According to the letter, the decision for the notice of handing over is due to the expiration of Col. Damoah's contract, which was given to him after he attained the mandatory retirement age.

"Following the expiration of your contract of service as Commissioner (Customs Division) of the Ghana Revenue Authority on October 13 2021, the President of the Republic has directed that effective Friday, August 26, 2022, you hand over your duties and office to the acting Deputy Commissioner (Preventive Service), Mr. Siedu Iddrisu Iddisah, who will act as the Commissioner (Customs Division) pending the President's substantive appointment.

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Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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