Graphic Online 

Police hunt for microfinance kingpin

Author: Suleiman Mustapha
Dr Ernest Addison, Governor, BoG
Dr Ernest Addison, Governor, BoG

The police are on a manhunt for the owner of Wyselink Microfinance Limited, Reverend Eric Nhyira Baafi, for being in possession of a fake Bank of Ghana (BOG) licence and operating an unlicensed microfinance institution.

Other key officers of the company, Mr Isaac Fiifi Morgan, Mr Eugene Amankwah Asante and Mr Michael Annan, the Director, Operations Manager and Head of Accounts respectively, have already been arrested to assist police investigations.

During interrogation, the police were able to retrieve GH¢20,000 from one of the officials of the company and were poised to retrieve several thousands of depositors’ funds.

Bank sources

Sources at the central bank told the Daily Graphic  that officials of the unlicensed company were not able to provide the police with records of their operations, including deposits collected and depositor list.

The unlicensed microfinance company which had been closed down had offices in Takoradi, Assin Fosu, Ofankor in the Greater Accra Region and Drobo in the Brong Ahafo Region.

BoG notice

The central bank issued a statement last week warning that, “Anyone who does business with Wyselink Microfinance Limited does so at their own risk and the Bank of Ghana will not be liable for refund any deposit lost by a depositor.”

The directors of 30 microfinance companies were in March this year dragged to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to be investigated and if found culpable, prosecuted for alleged embezzlement and fraud.

Among other things, the anti-graft agency is to investigate how more than GH¢90 million belonging to depositors was used by the microfinance companies.

A highly placed source at EOCO told the Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity that more than 4,500 customers risked losing their lifetime savings to the struggling microfinance companies.

Many microfinance companies have in the last few months shut down their operations because of their inability to raise money to fund withdrawals.

The fate of thousands of customers whose lifetime savings are locked up remains uncertain as some directors of the distressed companies are said to have gone into hiding.

Checks by the Daily Graphic into the operations of some microfinance companies showed that out of the 347 licensed companies, only 319 were in good standing and had complied fully with BoG regulations.

There are currently about 50 microfinance companies that are struggling to meet their liabilities to depositors.

Again, checks by the Daily Graphic show a huge gap between deposits and assets, meaning that large sums of funds had been diverted into some other businesses in which the microfinance companies had a stake.

The checks confirmed that several assets management and insurance companies had invested heavily in the distressed microfinance companies, a situation which had triggered the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to initiate investigations.

Shut down

Meanwhile, the BoG has ordered some microfinance companies to shut down, while others have been asked to cease taking deposits from customers.

There are yet others who have been asked by the BOG to reduce the number of offices they have, while the highly distressed ones have been referred to EOCO for further investigations and possible prosecution.

 At a news conference of the Monetary Policy Committee held in Accra last week, the Governor of the central bank, Dr Ernest Addison, said: “Microfinance institutions are doing everything that they are not supposed to do and are behaving like they are banks and that’s the core part of the problem.”

The governor said the Financial Institutions Supervision Department of the BOG had given the microfinance sector new guidelines on business practices.