Following a six month investigation into the business operations of Ghanaian mobile operator Scancom (Ghana) Limited, the country’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has called for action to recover some GHC8 trillion (USD8.48 billion) from the company, roughly equivalent to 17% of the country’s entire GHC44.8 trillion budget. Scancom, the company which operated under the Spacefon Areeba banner but which was sold by the Lebanese owned Investcom Group to Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) of South Africa in May 2006, was targeted by the SFO following serious allegations concerning its financial operations, the discharge of its tax obligations to the state and the circumstances of its takeover by MTN. According to several local press reports, the SFO says it has uncovered ‘one of the most sophisticated networks in international money laundering, tax evasion and balance sheet fraud’. Its GHC8 trillion ‘fine’ is considered to be the amount Scancom has defrauded the country plus punitive damages.
The Office has singled out specific alleged infractions relating to corporate tax and National Reconstruction Levy (NRL) evasion (between January 1997 and December 2005), the ‘surreptitious repatriation’ of funds in the acquisition of Scancom by Investcom, fraud, money laundering offences and financial statement balance fraud. Local online news portal myjoyonline.com, citing the Daily Graphic, says the SFO has also cited Bank of Ghana (BoG) and KPMG ‘through whose laxity these fraudulent deals were carried out’. It has criticised the bank for the weaknesses of its ‘operational and control strategies’ in the area of foreign exchange management, and called Scancom’s external auditors to book for ‘the glaring omissions and commissions, affecting the validity and reliability of the audited financial statements of Scancom’. In summary, the SFO said that as a result of its findings, it had established beyond reasonable doubt that there had been a ‘willful infraction of the law’.