-Syndicate of 1,200 companies Fleeces Ghana over US$1.8 billion Yearly!
Unknown to Ghanaians, Ms. Eunice Hinneh, a top campaign financier of President Akufo Addo’s presidential campaign and the CEO of the notorious frozen foods company La Bianca Company has been cited in a serious money laundering scandal where her companies under-declare millions of dollars worth of funds transferred outside to unknown accounts.
In 2020, the companies owned by Ms. Hinneh, namely: La Bianca Company Limited, Ayax Company Limited and White Stone Limited declared to revenue authorities and the Bank of Ghana approximately US$ 27 million as their total turnover. But an anti-corruption organization, The Movement for Truth and Accountability discovered that the amount is just about 30% of what those companies actually made.
Ms. Hinneh is so important to President Akufo Addo that he has appointed her to the board of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GHAPOHA) and the prestigious Council of State. And since her appointments in 2017, she has used her influence to arm-twist the GRA to massively reduce the amount of duties her companies pay on their questionable imports of frozen foods.
It is believed that the activities of La Bianca has been brought to the attention of President Akufo Addo during cabinet meetings with Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, but has looked the other way and has maintained Ms. Hinneh at the Council of State and at the board of GHAPOHA, where she is notorious for using her influence to perpetrated the activities linked to the reported money laundering.
It is currently unclear if the real turnover of Mr. Akufo Addo’s campaign financier was solely from trading in frozen foods or a more volatile trade that could send off serious alarm bells.
When suspicious activities of the “Queen of the Jubilee House” was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Finance, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and Financial Intelligence Center, they all practically chucked the reports under the carpet, Whatsup News gathered.
An emboldened Ms. Hinneh in April 2021, caused her company to write to the GRA to give her massive discounts on her latest imports. She was partly granted her wish, despite the GRA knowing that her companies have been cited for serious cases of money laundering.
“On August 6th and December, 4th, 2020, the Movement wrote to Financial Intelligence Centre and Ghana Revenue Authority to make them aware of the companies allegedly involved in the money laundering and tax evasion and they, in turn, wrote to us that they are also investigating the said companies…With very little done since we heard from these institutions, we hold the view that the process is too slow,” the Movement for Truth and Accountability wrote in a recent press statement.
“We currently have at our disposal the total amount of money each of the companies involved requested and the total import of some of them and the findings are staggering. Some imported brought in goods over 70% less than the amount they transferred outside,” the organisation revealed to Whatsup News.
According to information gathered by Whatsup News, there are over 1,200 importers within the money laundering ring involving La Bianca and its sister companies.
Reliable information confirmed by the relevant state institutions points to the fact that La Bianca and the other 1,200 are involved variously in either money laundering, under-invoicing or tax evasion.
Apparently, these companies upon getting their request for Import Declaration Forms (IDFs) approved to bring in goods to the amount requested, turn around to importing much less into Ghana, but use those forms to do other imports and wire the monies to unknown destinations.
According to the anti-corruption organisation blowing the whistle on this serious case, the actions of these companies are downright criminal and in breach of Ghana’s Anti-Money Laundering Act, Act 798 as amended by Amendment Act, 2014 (Act 874).
In fact, on April 8, 2021, the GRA acknowledged this fact. The GRA in a statement signed by Florence Asante, Assistant Commissioner Communication & Public Affair, admitted that there are indeed some 1,200 companies fleecing Ghana of hundreds of millions of dollars every year by laundering monies that should have come into the country either through taxes or other obligations.
“In 2020, it came to the attention of the Authority that multiple Import Declaration Forms (IDFs) issued to importers have been wrongly used for other purposes. IDFs are issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and indicate the type, quantity and cost of goods to aid commercial banks to transfer funds and is a regulatory requirement for reconciliation with Customs Documents,” the GRA statement in the possession of Whatsup News read.
“A multi-agency team was formed in the third quarter of 2020 with members drawn from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance, GRA, Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) & the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to carry out investigations into the issue. The team’s initial analysis of data on record from the Commercial Banks against Customs data for the calendar year 2019 uncovered approximately 10,000 unreconciled documents from over 2,000 companies with funds transferred in the region of $1.8bn,” the GRA disturbingly confirmed.