The Asantehene’s Mawerehene, Baffour Osei Hyeaman Brantuo VI has hinted that the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, in keeping with past happenings, will not respond to reports of money laundering linked to him in the United Kingdom.
The Asantehene returned to Ghana on Thursday after a trip to Brazil. During his absence, a British newspaper (The Telegraph) reported that he gave £200,000 as well as $200,000 (in cash) with consecutive serial numbers to Mark Arthur, a banker to be deposited on his behalf at the Ghana International Bank Plc.
The story claimed that Mr Arthur, former Executive Director of the bank, had said he could not conduct the necessary due diligence before depositing the money because he was a subject of the Asantehene and could not question him over the money or any other issue.
He has since been sacked by the bank and the matter has become a subject of litigation before an employment tribunal in the UK.
The bank has since clarified that the tribunal hearing that has captured the public’s attention, is not about whether the Asantehene was engaged in money laundering or not but this has not quenched the debate about the issue.
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However, the Mawerehene in a radio interview with Accra based Joy FM suggested that there will be no official statement from the Manhyia Palace about the issue because the Asantehene "has never responded to anything before".
"For me, I don't even know what stories are making rounds, so for now it is for you the press to handle yourselves," he said on the sidelines of the Asantehene's rousing welcome at the Kumasi Airport on Thursday.
He added: "You started something and you know where it's gotten to but it is not for Manhyia and Otumfuo to respond to it. He's never responded to anything before, so just for the brief of it. Definitely for us it is a happy occasion that the King has returned to us.
"Whatever happened is for those of us he left behind to tell him and if we feel that it deserves any special mention we will tell him, if it doesn't we will just ignore it".
The Asantehene is said to have summoned Mark Arthur to his residence in Henley-on-Thames and handed him a bag containing almost £200,000 in sterling as well as $200,000 in US currency with consecutive serial numbers. The bank official felt it inappropriate to ask too many questions.
However, the subsequent deposit of the cash at Ghana International Bank triggered a money laundering alert in the City of London and cost Mr Arthur his job.
Mr Arthur, from New Barnet, Hertfordshire, a dual citizen of the UK and Ghana, drove to his own home with the cash and then took it in an Uber taxi to the bank’s City offices for deposit in the king’s account, he told an employment tribunal.
Osei Tutu II, the holder of a diplomatic passport, told him the cash had been withdrawn from banks in Ghana and brought to the UK, he said in his witness statement.
He had also instructed Mr Arthur to move $200,000 to an account at Standard bank in Jersey.
Mr Arthur, a member of the Ashanti tribe, the largest in Ghana, carried out the transfer within hours, the tribunal heard.
He was suspended and then sacked following the incident, after an investigation by outside accountants Grant Thornton. He is claiming wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal and failure to protect a whistleblower.
The bank said he had failed to follow anti-money laundering rules and had violated security policies as it was only insured to carry cash by armoured car up to a maximum of £250,000.
Mr Arthur, an executive director of the bank, alleged the deposit and transfer were approved by Ghana International Bank’s chief executive, Joseph Mensah.
Mr Mensah told an outside reviewer of Mr Arthur’s dismissal he “didn’t even have the authority to sanction such a huge amount”.
Osei Tutu II is estimated to be Africa’s 10th richest monarch, with valuable goldmine and cocoa plantations and remains one of the most influential traditional figures in Ghana.