Story: Kwabena Akyeana
An Accra High Court has mandated the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to return Cecilia Dapaah’s seized money to her within a period of seven days.
The former Sanitation Minister found herself entangled in a legal dispute when her assets were seized by the OSP. However, the court has overturned this action, directing the OSP to return the confiscated funds to her.
The OSP is investigating Madam Dapaah for corruption and corruption-related offences following the revelation that she was keeping more than $1 million in her house.
In the wake of the startling revelation of stolen funds by her domestic staff, the Office of the Special Prosecutor embarked on a comprehensive search of the minister’s residences, prompted by the staggering amounts that were reported stolen.
Startling details later emerged from the Office of the Special Prosecutor, that a substantial sum of US$590,000 in cash was unearthed during the search conducted at the Abelemkpe residence of the former Minister.
Concurrently, an astounding amount of GHC2.730,000 in cash was also discovered at the same address.
The Special Prosecutor took immediate action, seizing these substantial cash sums as crucial evidence to support the ongoing investigation.
The OSP subsequently froze the accounts of the former minister’s cedi and dollar accounts pending further investigations.
It emerged on Friday, July 21, 2023 that two house helps of the Minister were facing charges before an Accra Circuit Court for allegedly stealing an amount of $1 million, €300,000, and millions of Ghanaian cedis at the former minister’s residence at Abelenkpe, Accra, in October 2022.
The two, 18-year-old Patience Botwe and 30-year-old Sarah Agyei allegedly stole the monies and personal effects of the couple, between the months of July and October 2022.
Both have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a crime and five counts of stealing US$1 million, €300,000, and millions of Ghana cedis.
The 68-year-old former Minister disputes the figures given in the court document but the revelations outraged many in Ghana.
Ghana’s cedi currency has been losing value rapidly in recent months, with those in charge of the troubled economy blaming dollar hoarders for the woes of the cedi.
It was shocking for many to learn that a government minister may have been holding foreign currency herself.
Ms Dapaah resigned as minister of sanitation and water resources a post she had held for the last five years on Saturday in order, she said, not to distract from the work of the government. She added that she was sure that any investigation would show she had acted with integrity.
That did not quell the anger. By Monday, July 24, 203 she was under arrest.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor, which deals with graft allegations against high-level officials, announced that it had arrested and was questioning Ms Dappah for “suspected corruption and corruption-related offences regarding large amounts of money and other valuable items reportedly stolen from her residence”.
She was released on bail late on Monday evening after her official and private residences in the capital, Accra, were searched.
The saga began with a burglary – or possibly a series of burglaries – at the minister’s private home, which she shares with her husband and daughter.
Two women, who worked as domestic workers for the family, are at the centre of the accusations. One is alleged to have operated as a look-out, while the other allegedly stole the cash and other goods. They – as well as the three others accused – have not commented on the charges.
The “brief facts” of the investigation, which are attached to the charge sheet, say that last October Ms Dapaah’s husband, Daniel Osei Kuffour, returned home and heard “an unusual noise” from his bedroom and then found one of the accused hiding behind the door.
It was afterwards that the couple realised that things were missing but they only went to the police seven months later.
It is not clear why there was such a long delay, but in that time the accused are alleged to have gone on an extravagant spending spree.
One allegedly bought a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Accra as well as items to go in it: a double-decker fridge, a television, a washing machine, a chest freezer, a gas cooker and a water dispenser. She allegedly gave money to her boyfriend to buy two cars – a Hyundai Elantra and a Honda Civic.
The couple are also accused of renting another three-bedroom house in a different city and a store room.
The other former employee of Ms Dapaah is alleged to have spent some of her share of the stolen money on building her own three-bedroom house.
But for the former minister herself, the source of the money that funded this alleged huge shopping bill was a mystery.
In her resignation letter, Ms Dapaah said the reports that she had “various huge sums of foreign currencies and millions of Ghana cedis… do not represent correctly what my husband and I reported to the police”.
President Nana Akufo-Addo’s response disappointed anti-corruption campaigners as it appeared to prejudge the outcome of the investigations.
“I am confident… that at the end of the day, your integrity, whilst in office, will be established,” he wrote to Ms Dapaah.
She had served as a minister since President Akufo-Addo was first elected in 2017, initially in aviation and a year later she was switched to water and sanitation.
Ms Dapaah was well known as she was one of just three women in the president’s cabinet.
Now her political future hangs in the balance as the special prosecutor investigates whether she really had such huge amounts of cash in her house and if so, where it came from.