Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, brother of former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama
The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) has given Mr Ibrahim Mahama, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engineers & Planners, a private engineering firm, a two-week ultimatum to pay almost GH¢13 million, being import duties and interest on equipment he brought into the country.
A source at EOCO told the Daily Graphic that although the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) had an arrangement with Mr Mahama to pay the amount, totalling GH¢12,755.251.21, within a certain period, he failed to fulfil his part of the agreement for more than a year.
The source said rather, Mr Mahama, who is a brother of former President John Dramani Mahama, issued dud cheques, which was a criminal offence.
He was reportedly granted bail after EOCO had interrogated him last Tuesday. The cheque was said to be for goods reportedly cleared in 2015.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, had, for several weeks, alleged that Mr Mahama issued dud cheques to the Customs Division of the GRA.
Mr Agyapong had, subsequently, been on a media crusade, agitating that EOCO should investigate Mr Ibrahim.
The source declined to comment on what would happen if Mr Mahama failed to pay the money, adding that the law was clear on the next step.
It is an offence, under the laws of Ghana, to issue a cheque, knowing very well that you do not have sufficient funds in your account to meet the face value of the cheque.
According to legal experts, the reasonable thing to do in such circumstances is to negotiate to issue post-dated cheques to mature on the dates you are sure funds would have been paid into your accounts.
The punishment for issuing a cheque which is dishonoured upon presentation is a fine or imprisonment. The relevant law is Section 313 (A) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, Act 29.
The section provides that any person who:
(a) without reasonable excuse, proof of which shall be on him, issues any cheques drawn on any bank with which he has no account; or
(b) issues any cheque in respect of any account with any bank when he has no reasonable ground (proof of which shall be on him) to believe that there are funds or adequate funds in the account to pay the amount specified on the cheque within the normal course of banking business; or
(c) with intent to defraud, stops or countermands any cheque previously issued by him, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on first offence to a fine not exceeding 250 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or to both the fine and the imprisonment, and in the case of a subsequent criminal offence, to a fine not exceeding 1,000 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.
According to media reports, Mr Mahama issued 44 different dud cheques linked to three bank accounts valued at over GH¢10 million to the GRA.
The cheques were meant to pay for import duties on heavy-duty vehicles that he had imported into the country on a number of occasions.
According to the reports, although the cheques were not honoured, the GRA kept accepting them, apparently because of Mr Mahama’s status in society.
But the issue was taken up when the new government took office, especially with threats from Mr Agyapong that he would not rest until Mr Mahama was arrested and prosecuted.
Last Friday, Mr Mahama met officials of the anti-graft organisation for the third time in the week.
There were media reports suggesting that his passport had been seized by EOCO to prevent him from travelling outside Ghana while investigations continued.
However, in a radio interview, Mr Sam George, the MP for Ningo-Prampram, said: “Another falsehood that has been put out there and has to be corrected is that Ibrahim’s passport has been seized. As I speak to you, he is in possession of his passport.”
“When he went to EOCO last Wednesday, EOCO made a copy of the data page of his passport; his passport is still in his possession. Ibrahim is not a flight risk — someone who owns a cement factory and owns the kind of businesses that he owns in this country cannot be deemed to be a flight risk and so we should stop this sensationalism,” he said.
Supporters of the businessman massed up at the offices of EOCO in Accra, ostensibly to show solidarity following the invitation.