2 journalists, others in court for attempted extortion

Five suspects, including two journalists appeared before a circuit court here, for allegedly attempting to extort GH¢300,000.00 from the Chief Executive Officer of the Peace and Love Hospital, in Kumasi.

Timothy Antwi-Otoo and James Marcus Kofi Otabil also Known as Astymin (journalists), Prince Kwarteng, Awuni Azure, also known as Kwame Isaac (both musicians), Mike Osei Bobie Kesse,(employee of the hospital) have been charged with three counts of extortion and stealing.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court, presided by Mr. Ekow Mensah, granted them bail of GH¢5,000.00 each with two sureties, but Antwi-Otoo was remanded into prison custody for failing to meet the bail terms.

The suspects would re-appear on September 15,2016.

Police Chief Superintendent Emmanuel Akonnor, told the court that Kesse was a Records Officer of the hospital in Kumasi, Prince Kwarteng, a musician in Kumasi, Azure, a musician at Agona Bobikuma in the Central Region, Antwi-Otoo, a journalist with Atinka FM in Accra and Otabil, a freelance journalist.

Chief Sup. Akonnor said in April 2015, Kesse told the accomplices that, the hospital’s branch in Accra was not accredited with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)and that the Chief Executive Officer, Dr.(Mrs) Beatrice Wiafe-Addai, was fraudulently operating under the scheme.

According to the prosecution, the five accused agreed to use the information they had to extort money from Dr. Mrs. Addai, as they asked Kesse to steal some patients’ confidential folders to aid them carry out the extortion and he stole 27 confidential folders of individual patients of the hospital’s  branch in Kumasi.

The prosecution said, with the 27 folders, they decided to extort GH¢300.000.00 from Dr. Mrs. Addai, and Otabil, who was in possession of the folders called Dr. Mrs. Addai on April 29, 2015 at about 8:30pm on phone and introduced himself as “Buabeng” a journalist.

During the telephone conversation, he disclosed to Dr. Mrs. Addai that, he had in his possession some patients’ confidential folders, which were evidence to her fraudulent operations at her hospital in Accra with regards to NHIS, the prosecution said adding, Otabil threatened to publish the information in the media if she failed to pay the money.

According to Chief Supt. Akonnor, Dr. Mrs. Addai informed her husband, Dr. Samuel Addai, about the case and he negotiated the payment of the money with Otabil.

Prosecution said they agreed on GH¢150,000.00 instead of the initial GH¢300,000.00 and asked the payment to be made into the Universal Merchant Bank account of Antwi-Otoo at the Adabraka branch with the account number 000090100399155, but Otabil later instructed Dr. Addai to deliver the money to him, personally at Assin Manso in the Central Region on May 5, 2015.

On the agreed day according to prosecution, Dr. Addai together with some witnesses and the Police went to Assin Manso where they met Kwarteng and Azure at a agreed location.

In the process of handing over the money to Kwarteng and Azure, the police arrested them and a search on them led to the retrieval of the 27 confidential patients’ folders, but Otabil, escaped, the prosecutor said.

Kesse, Otabil and Otoo were later arrested by the police and their statement taken and subsequently charged and arraigned.

From Kingsley E. Hope and Faustina Kwabea Osei, Kumasi

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