A Minister in Ghanaian government may have raised suspicion for herself after she reported to the police, a theft of about $1.5 million USD by burglars suspected be her domestic staff.
The minister must have thought she was doing the right thing by going to the police to report a theft at her house, but it backfired spectacularly when she was arrested.
According to a court charge sheet dated last Thursday relating to those accused of the theft, Cecilia Abena Dapaah had a vast amount of money stolen.
It describes a “cash sum” of $1m (£780,000), as well as 300,000 euros ($333,000) and 350,000 Ghana cedis ($30,000), plus other personal items including handbags valued at $35,000 and $95,000-worth of jewellery.
The 68-year-old disputes the figures given in the court document but the revelations outraged many in Ghana.
The country’s currency has been losing value rapidly in recent months, with those in charge of the troubled economy blaming dollar hoarders for the woes of the cedi.
It was shocking for many to learn that a government minister may have been holding foreign currency herself.
Ms Dapaah resigned as minister of sanitation and water resources, a post she had held for the last five years on Saturday in order, she said, not to distract from the work of government. She added that she was sure that any investigation would show she had acted with integrity.
That did not quell the anger. By Monday she was under arrest.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor, which deals with graft allegations against high-level officials, announced that it had arrested and was questioning Ms Dappah for “suspected corruption and corruption-related offences regarding large amounts of money and other valuable items reportedly stolen from her residence”.
She was released on bail late on Monday evening after her official and private residences in the capital, Accra, were searched.
The saga began with a burglary – or possibly a series of burglaries – at the minister’s private home, which she shares with her husband and daughter.
Two women, who worked as domestic workers for the family, are at the centre of the accusations. One is alleged to have operated as a look-out, while the other allegedly stole the cash and other goods. They – as well as the three others accused – have not commented on the charges.
The “brief facts” of the investigation, which are attached to the charge sheet, say that last October Ms Dapaah’s husband, Daniel Osei Kuffour, returned home and heard “an unusual noise” from his bedroom and then found one of the accused hiding behind the door.
It was afterwards that the couple realised that things were missing but they only went to the police seven months later.
It is not clear why there was such a long delay, but in that time the accused are alleged to have gone on an extravagant spending spree.
One allegedly bought a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Accra as well as items to go in it: a double-decker fridge, a television, a washing machine, a chest freezer, a gas cooker and a water dispenser. She allegedly gave money to her boyfriend to buy two cars – a Hyundai Elantra and a Honda Civic.
The couple are also accused of renting another three-bedroom house in a different city and a store room.
The other former employee of Ms Dapaah is alleged to have spent some of her share of the stolen money on building her own three-bedroom house.
But for the former minister herself, the source of the money that funded this alleged huge shopping bill was a mystery.
In her resignation letter, Ms Dapaah said the reports that she had “various huge sums of foreign currencies and millions of Ghana cedis… do not represent correctly what my husband and I reported to the police”.
President Nana Akufo-Addo’s response disappointed anti-corruption campaigners as it appeared to prejudge the outcome of the investigations.
“I am confident… that at the end of the day, your integrity, whilst in office, will be established,” he wrote to Ms Dapaah.
She had served as a minister since President Akufo-Addo was first elected in 2017, initially in aviation and a year later she was switched to water and sanitation.
Ms Dapaah was well known as she was one of just three women in the president’s cabinet.
Now her political future hangs in the balance as the special prosecutor investigates whether she really had such huge amounts of cash in her house and if so, where it came from.