The Ghana flag is fluttering and flying proudly at full mast at Kofi Badu Krom border. The apparent diligence and commitment to the patriotic duty of serving mother Ghana with integrity was on shining display.
The coat of arms on their berets glittering in all its splendour, these officers of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) were in every sense a true reflection of the Ghanaian public servant’s outward elegance. They are in pleasantly sharp contrast to the abrasive, intimidating and extortionist attitude of the Ivorian security people who seem to derive a special joy in erecting barriers and barricades.
Behind these broad smiles on the faces of some of these CEPS men, exists a complex web of rot and fraud under their happy supervision. The New Crusading Guide undercover reporter’s hidden camera has caught the ‘men in blue’ (motion picture) neck deep busily helping the smuggling mafia to deprive mother Ghana of her needed revenue. Not only that, the rot and bribery was so deep that our reporter who bought a truck full of rice (as an undercover businessman, Prince Agyei) and went through the secret smuggling route through La cote d’Ivoire, had to pay Fifty Ghana Cedis (GH¢50) as bribe to bring the truck full of rice and other smuggled goods to Ghana. He posed as a business man registering and joining the smuggling syndicate who operate within Kwame Sie Krom, Gono Krom, and Kofi Badu Krom in the Western Region of Ghana.
When Ghana government announced the long-anticipated and much –vaunted tax rebate on imported rice and other commodities in a bid to ease the squeeze on Ghanaians of the global economic crisis, little did the authorities know that it was an exercise in futility. It came too late and was, ironically, too scanty, notwithstanding how well-intentioned and carefully thought out. In fact, the package fell flat in the face, and far short, of the fantastic philanthropy that tax agents on the country’s western border had been displaying long before. As the undercover footage shows, CEPS officials started given rebate in Kofi Badukrom Kwame Sie Krom and Gono Krom, long ago.
Effortlessly one could pay a paltry sum of GH¢50 as “duty” at the Kofi Badukrom, Kwame Sie Krom and Gono Krom on a 40-feet container truck load of rice as this reporter did.
At Kofi-Badukrom 15 cars arrived each day with smuggled rice from La Cote d’Ivoire, what this means is that, in three months 1395 trucks of rice are smuggled into Ghana without the appropriate duties being paid. Each truck carries over 400 bags of rice and other smuggled stuffs. On the average however over one million bags of rice are smuggled into Ghana within 6 months.
“Our job here is to offload the rice from one truck to the other, we load 15 to 20 trucks of smuggled rice per day, and sometimes when we are loading we see other things at the bottom of the truck” Amakye one of the ‘goro’ boys told our reporter.
The New Crusading Guide also uncovered multiple acts of corruption by several officials holding post at Ghana’s borders. These officers do not only aid criminals to smuggle several from Cote d’Ivoire and other neighboring countries but also extort money from people who do not have appropriate traveling documents. Instead of guarding our border posts with extreme watchfulness, these officials usually team up with smugglers to rob mother Ghana of her due. They are mainly concerned with enriching themselves and see their work post as ‘gold mines’.
Through several alliances with insiders in the rice smuggling trade, backed by sufficient money to pay CEPS officials on guard, the New Crusading Guide was able to break into some of the unapproved routes of the syndicate. It was a path reserved for the smuggling syndicate, hardly accessed by outsiders. Some of the reputable smuggling ‘dons’ who have made millions of cedis through the illicit rice smuggling include Alias Appiah, Hajia, Akos, Emiliya, Dada Kwame and etc.
After beating several odds within the syndicate our reporter joined the smuggling syndicate and uncovered the illicit trade of these smugglers and their relationship with some dubious CEPS officials. A copy of the video showing faces of the corrupt CEPS officials has been given to the appropriate State institutions for action.
From Abidjan, the smugglers ply terrifying routes and pay bribe at every single Ivorian post. They then set off at 7pm, with many truck-loads of rice lined up along the road to start the journey into Ghana. Some of the smugglers head for Tamale, Kumasi and other parts of the country. Most of the heavy trucks, our investigations revealed, are owned by the Ghanaian rice smugglers themselves.
At the Ghana border, CEPS officials were bribed (captured on video) by our reporter with assorted bottles of Exotic British wine, bags of rice and other assorted products. They finally extorted money from our reporter and other smugglers and granted them entry into the country with the smuggled rice, this happened on several occasions.
Although military men were at post, they normally drove in a military vehicle; looked at the smuggling syndicate and left. The Defence Public relations argues that ‘it is the responsibility of CEPS to check smuggled goods, and that the presence of Military is a routine check up’ Col Nibo told our reporter in a separate interview. CEPS would not comment on the story at all when the paper called for their side of it.
Another likely consequence of this disturbing trend is the proliferation of smuggled arms, drugs and other illegal items into the country. ‘Arms and cocaine pass through Kwame Sie Krom, Gono Krom and Kofi Badu krom hidden in rice sacks but nobody checks them once you can pay enough to the CEPS guys there’ Tony Kpogah (not his real name hinted the paper) a deep throat whispered to this paper.
If you missed GTV yesterday’s telecast of this interesting documentary, prepare yourself for a repeat of this mind boggling investigation you would never forget. A hidden camera exposé, first time in the history of Ghanaian journalism. Anas Aremeyaw Anas in the saddle, see it live on Net 2 at 8pm Today, TV3 at 9; 30pm on Thursday, Metro TV at 9pm on Saturday and a repeat on GTV and other networks on Friday.