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Former Venture Capital Boss, ex NDC MP, four others charged for stealing GHC 42M

Former Chief Executive Officer of the Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF), Daniel Duku, and former National Democratic Congress ( NDC), Member of Parliament (MP) for Keta, Richard Lassey Agbenyefia, along with four others have been charged with eighty six (86) counts of Stealing and Causing Financial Loss to the State of up to about Forty Two Million Ghana Cedis (GHc 42,000,000.00).

According to the Charge Sheet and Brief facts of the case filed at the High Court by the Attorney General’s Department dated the 29th of April 2019, and signed on behalf of the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, by the Director of Public Prosecution, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the first (1st) accused person, Daniel Duku, was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of VCTF between 2010 and 2015.

The second (2nd) accused person, Richard Lassey Agbenyefia, was a former Member of Parliament and a former member of the Board of Trustees of VCTF (the Board). The third (3rd) accused person, Irene Anti-Mensah, who doubled as the Executive Assistant to the 1st accused person, was an Investment Officer of VCTF. The fourth (4th) accused person, Kofi Sarpong, was an investment officer of VCTF. The fifth (5th) accused person, Frank Aboagye Mensah, is a businessman and the husband of the 3rd accused person. The sixth (6th) accused person, Charity Opoku also known as Charity Ameyaw was an accountant at VCTF.

The eighty-six (86) charges preferred against the six accused persons are in breach of eight different sections of the law and they are; abetment of crime namely, Wilfully Causing Financial Loss to the Republic contrary to sections 20(1) and 179A(3)(a) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29); Wilfully Causing Financial Loss to the Republic contrary to section 179A(3)(a) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29); Stealing, contrary to section 124(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29); Issuing of False Cheque contrary to section 313A(1) (b) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29); Abetment of Crime namely, Defrauding by False Pretence contrary to sections 20(1) and 131(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).

They are also charged with Defrauding by False Pretence contrary to section 131 (1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29); Conspiracy to Commit an Offence, namely, Stealing, contrary to sections 23(1) and 124(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, (Act 29); Public Property contrary to section 2(1) of the Public Property Protection Act, 1977 (SMCD) 140, and Money Laundering contrary to section 1(1) (c) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2008 (749).

Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF), the Attorney General’s facts sheet observes, was established in 2004 by the Venture Capital Trust Fund Act, 2004, (Act 680), to provide financial support to small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) through eligible venture capital financing companies. The facts sheet further indicates that the 1st accused person, as the CEO of Venture Capital, facilitated the recruitment of the 3rd and 4th accused persons, who were his work colleagues at the Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (GIPA) to join him at VCTF, as his Executive Assistant and Investment Officer respectively. Upon assumption of office, the 1st accused person introduced a loan scheme named Development Assistance Fund (DAF) to provide credit directly to individuals and companies in clear contravention of the VCTF Act and contrary to the objects of VCTF.

Despite the advice of solicitors of VCTF on the illegality of the proposed loan scheme, the State’s charge sheet says the 1st accused person managed to obtain the approval of the Board for the establishment of the DAF scheme. Subsequently, the 1st accused person got the Board to approve an amount of GH₵1,000,000, which was later increased to GH₵2,000,000 as a revolving fund for the DAF project. Investigations conducted according to the brief facts have revealed that the 1st accused person disbursed various sums of money under the scheme the total of which far exceeded the approved amount of GH₵2,000,000.

The documents filed at the court further noted that prior to the appointment of 1st accused as CEO and the establishment of DAF, VCTF operated an existing scheme which gave loans to farmers in the Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions for the cultivation of sorghum. This loan scheme known as the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) gave loans to certain Venture Capital Finance Companies (VCFC) namely SINAPI ABA and Techno Serve Company Limited for onward lending to farmers. The SPV had a minimum of GH₵50,000 and GH₵500,000 as the maximum amount that could be disbursed at a time to the Venture Capital Finance Companies.

This program ran successfully until the 1st accused assumed leadership in June 2010 when the project stopped. However, in or about October 2010, the SPV was reintroduced at the instance of the 1st accused (albeit with Board approval) this time to be controlled directly from the office of the 1st accused. 1st accused could however only approve loans up to GH₵50,000. Any loan amount above the GH₵50,000 threshold required Board approval.
Contrary to and in flagrant disregard of the approved Board thresholds for the CEO, the 1st accused person persistently approved loans purportedly under DAF and SPV well above his threshold directly to a number of companies some of which were non-existent. Some of these allegedly fictitious companies bore addresses, which belonged to the 1st accused. The accused persons used the names of a number of companies belonging to other persons to obtain loans without the knowledge, permission and or consent of the owners of the companies.

The 6th accused, who was at all material times the accountant at VCTF and a signatory to the VCTF account, according to the Charge Sheet aided the 1st accused by signing blank cheques to grant loans to some of these companies while on leave. Some of the cheques were issued even before the purported applications for the loans were received. The 1st accused, using these blank cheques signed by the 6th accused, granted loans totaling GH¢4,240,000.00 which resulted in a total loss of GH¢12,601,796.25 being principal and accrued interest to the Fund.

The Board, upon realizing the financial challenges facing the Fund in its sustainability, instructed the 1st accused in 2013 to stop the disbursement of loans under the DAF scheme and to rather concentrate on recoveries. However, the 1st accused allegedly misled the Board by reporting that he had recovered 81% of the outstanding loans under DAF when he knew that to be false and consequently obtained the Board’s approval to resume disbursements under the DAF scheme. At the request of the 1st accused, the Board relying on the false report of the 1st accused person increased the DAF Fund from GH¢1,500,000 to GH¢2,000,000.

Again, in January 2015, the Board instructed the 1st accused to completely stop the disbursement of loans and focus on the recovery of loans already disbursed. These instructions were ignored by the 1st accused who authorized the disbursement of more loans without the knowledge or authority of the Board. In June 2015, even though the appointment of the 1st accused had been terminated, he remained in office until September 2015 during which period he disbursed some more loans to companies some of which belonged to his official driver and some cronies.

During the period, the 1st accused obtained an amount of twenty-six thousand and sixty-three dollars ($26,063) to attend an official programme in the United States of America. Even though the 1st accused did not attend the programme he failed to pay the money to chest and dishonestly appropriated the entire amount. The Board on realizing that the 1st accused did not attend the programme, directed him to refund the twenty-six thousand and sixty-three dollars ($26,063) to VCTF in response to which directive the 1st accused issued false cheques to VCTF, which were dishonoured upon presentation at the bank.

The 2nd accused person on his part obtained loans in the names of companies based on false representations to VCTF without the knowledge, permission or approval of the owners of the companies whereas in other instances the loans were obtained in the names of non-existent companies. The 3rd and 4th accused persons, who were responsible for evaluation and processing of loan applications to VCTF, failed to conduct the requisite due diligence on loan applicants but rather allegedly facilitated the grant of loans through falsified records by entering false information on the loan application forms.

The Charge Sheet further states that, investigations has established that the 5th accused person allegedly used non-existent companies to obtain loans from VCTF and acted together with 1st, 3rd and 4th accused persons to dishonestly appropriate various sums of money from VCTF in the names of these companies.
Evidence according to the Attorney General will show that these and other acts of the accused persons have resulted in the loss of over GH¢ 42,856,470.21 to the Republic of Ghana.

The accused persons are expected to be arraigned on Friday the 3rd of May, 2019, where their charges would be read to them and their pleas will also be taken.

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