The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) has arrested a Chinese woman for allegedly transferring $313.59 million out of the country illegally, otherwise known as money laundering, the Daily Graphic has gathered.
The suspect, Chen Jianhua, was arrested and placed in police custody in Accra after EOCO found that large amounts of money in dollars, some of them linked to non-existent companies, moved through multiple bank accounts from Ghana to China between 2011 and 2019.
She is also being investigated for tax evasion and using forged bank accounts and a fake driver’s licence, the Daily Graphic has gathered.
EOCO said they were finalising investigations and would file charges against her and her collaborators by the middle of next month.
A source at EOCO told the Daily Graphic in Accra that “we are at the concluding stages of investigations and this will pass as one of the biggest money laundering cases in the history of the country.”
EOCO, according to the source, began investigating Chen after identifying suspicious transactions through some bank accounts.
Ms Chen was consequently picked up last week and placed in police custody.
According to the source, on May 30, 2011, Jianhua opened a personal bank account (local and foreign) in Ghana.
The total credit transactions on the account as of March 20, 2019 was GH¢154.06 million for the local account and $12.36 million for the foreign account.
The corresponding debit was GH¢154.05 million and $12.36 million.
“She could not explain the source of the funds. Our investigations, however, revealed that those transactions were from companies including Synergy Global Consult Limited, Venturome Ventures, Kings Royal Real Estates and other Chinese nationals in Ghana.”
“The cedis on the bank account were mainly converted into dollars, and in connivance with the bank, she sent the funds outside the country without proper documentation,” the source said.
Chen, the EOCO source said, held a residence permit Number RP0255003 issued in 2010, and tenable with Country Garden Limited, a restaurant.
“The entity ceased operating in 2012, which means the residence permit was not tenable, but she re-registered on March 13, 2019 while the investigations were ongoing,” it stated.
EOCO further found that there was no evidence of the operation of Country Garden as a restaurant.
Expatiating on the alleged deals, the source said EOCO established on the bank account that Chen was taking both local and foreign currencies from mainly Chinese individuals in Ghana for onward transfer to China, when she had not registered any transfer business in the country to warrant such huge dollar transfers to China.
“We also noted from available documents that Chen Jianhua was operating the bank accounts of other firms and individual persons,” the source revealed.
It mentioned the firms as Venturome Ventures, Synergy Global Consult Limited and Kings Royal Real Estates. All the three accounts were operated at one bank, while another bank operated the account of Alliqwabs Enterprise and the personal account of one Christopher King.
The source said both Synergy Consult and Kings Royal Real Estates were owned by King.
Explaining further, it said King claimed that somewhere in 2015, Chen, whom he had known in the past, requested to use his personal bank account in all currencies (cedis, dollars and euros).
The EOCO source said King explained during interrogation that he did not know the source of the funds and the work Chen was doing, hence would not know the basis of any of her transactions with Venturome, Alliqwabs and other companies.
“Again, he would not explain why millions of cedis had been changed into dollars and subsequently transferred to China and for what reason. His assertion was supported by Chen that King had not been part of the account since 2015,” the source said.
It mentioned that the total credit balances from various sources into the Synergy Consult account as of June 17, 2019 amounted to GH¢104.89 million with debit balances of GH¢105.056 million, while that of Kings Royal Real Estates had credit of GH¢3.72 million and $3.364 million.
“All these funds were transferred from these two accounts and other accounts before it was finally converted into dollars and transferred to China without any documents,” the source said.
Venturome Ventures account
Touching on the Venturome Ventures account, which Chen also operated, the EOCO source said Chen operated the accounts as a third person.
“Most of the funds on this account were transferred to Kings Royal, Alliqwabs and Synergy Consult and converted into dollars for onward transfer to China with the narration of payment of goods but there were no supporting documents for the so-called goods imported as per Bank of Ghana directive.
“As of February 17, 2019, total credit was GH¢33.25 million and total debit of GH¢23.25 million, while the dollar account had a total credit transaction of $1.52 million and a debit of $1.52 million.
Fake driver’s licence
In one of the banks, EOCO said, Chen had an account with the name Esther Chen, which was different from her official name which is on her passport.
According to the source, it was established that she used a fake driver’s licence and an identity card to open the bank account.
“Total credit transactions in this account from October 16, 2006 to July 16, 2019 was GH¢484.49 million and debit was GH¢484.49 million, meaning the balance was zero,” the source stated.
“Her modus operandi was that these large inflows, once deposited into any of the accounts mentioned, are spread through the remaining accounts before finally transferred outside to their destination, mostly China, with narrations of payment for goods,” it explained.
The source said at an average exchange rate of GH¢3 to a dollar, the total amount that had been transferred from Ghana to China by Chen amounted to $313.59 million.
It added that the various movements of funds to all sorts of accounts, including call accounts, amounted to an act of concealing the monies to make tracking difficult.
Another revelation from the EOCO investigations was that when EOCO computed the provisional tax liability base on the inflows that had the individual bank accounts of
Synergy Global Consulting, Venturome Ventures, Kings Royal Estate, Christopher King and Chen, none of the companies had registered for tax or had tax identification numbers.
The source said since the firms had not been able to provide any evidence of tax payments, EOCO had referred the matter to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) for its expert view.
Nonetheless, provisional tax assessments of $5 million and GH¢88 million on Chen’s inflows were on her bank statement.