Ghanaians need clarification on MenzGold saga - OccupyGhana

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
MenzGold logo

Pressure group OccupyGhana is asking the Bank of Ghana, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Minerals Commission to live up to their mandate as enforcing agencies, to bring finality to whether or not a gold trading company MenzGold is engaging in illegal deposit-taking. 

In a press statement, the group said it is critical for Ghanaians to know whether MenzGold is really only dealing in gold, and if so, whether the current business model complies with the terms and conditions of its gold dealing licence.

The Second Deputy Governor of the Bank, Dr Johnson Asiamah, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Tuesday, August 8, cautioned Ghanaians not to deposit their monies at MenzGold because they are not licensed as a bank. According to the Deputy Governor persons who deposit money with the gold firm do so at their own risk.

Read: Menzgold dismisses BOG claims of operating illegally

He said though the Company was licensed by the Minerals Commission to buy and sell gold, it had begun accepting deposits from customers.

Corporate Manager of the company, Nana Yaw Offei, in a radio interview dismissed the claims by the Deputy Governor explaining that clients rather purchase quantities of gold in an investment package which yields interest over a period time.

Read also: "Don't deposit at Menzgold"-Bank of Ghana cautions

OcuppyGhana in its statement said the caution from Bank of Ghana is dangerous and has the potential to kill the business if proper checks are not done to establish whether or not the assertions by the BoG is true.

Below is the statement:

10th AUGUST, 2017

OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT

THE MENZGOLD CONTROVERSY – OCCUPYGHANA® DEMANDS ACTION FROM BANK OF GHANA, SECURITIES & EXCHANGE COMMISSION AND MINERALS COMMISSION

OccupyGhana® has read the news report of a statement allegedly made by the Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Johnson Asiamah, that the company called MenzGold is not licensed to conduct deposit-taking, and that although it is licensed by the Minerals Commission (MinCom) to trade in gold, it had deviated into accepting deposits from unsuspecting customers. Yet in the same story Dr. Asiamah admits that there does not appear to be evidence that MenzGold is flouting the law; but adds that the Bank decided to still notify the public that MenzGold is not to accept deposits.

That statement gives OccupyGhana® much cause for concern, stemming in part from MenzGold’s denying that it takes deposits, claiming that it is only engaged in the purchase and sale of gold. The Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC)’s 2016 – Third Party Gold Export records show that in 2016, the PMMC exported gold on behalf of an entity called “MenzBanc,” for 6 out of the 12 months. The total weight of gold so exported was 3,217.834 ounces, with MenzBanc earning US$3,943,022.41 (GH¢15,742,662.18). These exports were to Dubai, South Korea and Hong Kong, according to the records, and placed MenzBanc among one of the smallest exporters of gold through the PMMC. When one contrasts the above facts with the fantastic interest rates (“dividends”) that MenzGold promises and pays to its customers or clients, it is critical for Ghanaians to know whether MenzGold is really only dealing in gold, and if so whether the current business model complies with the terms and conditions of its gold dealing licence, if any. Ghanaians deserve to know whether the underlying gold transactions can support the promised rates of return; if not, then we have another potentially serious issue on our hands.

Against the background of the recent financial ruin visited upon some Ghanaians by the DKM disaster, we are concerned whether the claim of dealing in gold is a guise for:
(i) deposit-taking by a private company in breach of the Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179);
(ii) unlicensed deposit-taking in breach of the Banks and Specialised Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, 2016 (Act 930),;
(iii) unauthorised securities transactions in breach of the Securities Industry Act, 2016 (Act 929); or
(iv) worse still, a criminal ‘Pyramid’ or ‘Ponzi’ Scheme.

As ordinary Ghanaians, we are unable to make these determinations. The institutions authorised to determine whether MenzGold is involved in (un)authorised business are:
(i) the Minerals Commission (MinCom), which licences dealers in gold, and is empowered by the Minerals Commission Act, 1993 (Act 450) to “monitor the operations of the bodies or establishments with responsibility for minerals;”
(ii) the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which is empowered by Act 929 to maintain “surveillance over activities in securities to ensure orderly, fair and equitable dealings in securities;” and
(iii) the Bank of Ghana, which is entrusted by Act 930 with the “protection of depositors in the country through the regulation and supervision of financial institutions.”

It is for these reasons that OccupyGhana® is concerned that if MenzGold is engaged in illegal deposit-taking or worse, disguised as a gold trading/investment business, the Bank of Ghana does not appear to have exercised its powers under sections 20 to 22 of Act 930 at all. If MenzGold is breaching that Act then we expect the Bank to do more than issuing a warning statement. We expect the Bank to take the steps set out by law and apply the sanctions provided in the law for breaches, if any. However if the law has not been breached by MenzGold, and it is engaged in genuine business, then the Bank of Ghana’s statement is dangerous and has to potential to kill that business, unjustifiably.

OccupyGhana® does not need to remind the Bank of Ghana that Act 930 gives it immense powers with respect to deposit-taking and then prohibits anyone from accepting deposits from the general public or carrying on a deposit-taking business without the Bank’s licence.

OccupyGhana® does not have to remind the Bank of Ghana that where the Bank “has sufficient reason to believe that a person is transacting or carrying on a deposit-taking business or taking deposits in contravention” of the law, the Bank has the power to cause a full-scale forensic audit to be conducted of that business to first ascertain that that person is involved in the illegal activity, and then “close down the business of [that] person.”

The Bank of Ghana does not need any further reminder it that it is for good reason that the law empowers it, as part of this forensic audit, to demand the production of all books, instruct the freezing of assets, suspend the business, etc.

The Bank of Ghana must be aware of its power to ensure the refund of all monies obtained and profits accrued, the return of all assets acquired as a result of the illegal activity, and the payment of interest that may be owing to people. The law adds that a person who fails to do these is deemed to be bankrupt and that the Bank has the power to apply to court for the winding up and sequestration of the estate of that person.

Who needs to remind the Bank of Ghana that the above civil sanctions do not affect the person’s criminal liability for unauthorised deposit-taking, which includes fines and/or imprisonment between 2 and 4 years?

If the Bank of Ghana does not require any of the above reminders of the vast powers given to it by the people of Ghana to prevent (and protect us from) unauthorised deposit-taking, then it beggars belief that the Bank has not taken any action except to issue a mere press statement. What is worse, the Bank has not yet determined whether the law has been broken or not.

In this regard all of the Bank of Ghana, the SEC and the MinCom have failed Ghana, by neglecting to take any of the statutory steps to ascertain whether MenzGold is involved in any illegal business, and then take control of its activities to ensure an orderly dismantling of it, including ensuring that the actors are punished in accordance with the law. This inaction by the Bank, and the silence of both the SEC and MinCom, are shockingly unacceptable.

If on the other hand Menzgold is engaged in genuine business, then the Bank’s statement is injurious and has the potential of killing it unjustifiably, which act could trigger a huge run and rush for monies paid, potential tortious liability for the Bank and the dreaded “judgment debt” which, of course, would be met with taxpayer funds.

It is on the basis of the foregoing that OccupyGhana® is demanding of the Bank, SEC and MinCom that they exercise their statutory powers in this matter in order that the law might take its normal course if it has to. It is our expectation as citizens that the above-mentioned institutions will take the appropriate steps and promptly.

Yours in the service of God and Country,

Primenewsghana .com