COCOBOD Uncovers Beans Stealing Syndicate… At Tema, Takoradi warehouses

Dr. Opuni The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), as a result of extensive investigations, has uncovered a cocoa beans stealing syndicate at its warehouses at Tema, Takoradi and Kaasi in Kumasi.

The Ghanaian Times can confirm the arrest of Mr. Charles Kukah, Senior Warehouse Manager of COCOBOD, by CID operatives last Friday, on the orders of the new management, as part of renewed efforts to clean up the institution and restore its financial strength as a reputable national asset.

Many other staff, and cocoa buying companies are being investigated in what is described by the security officials as a major crackdown on the cocoa beans stealing syndicate.

COCOBOD officials are tight lipped, but the Public Relations Manager, Mr. Amenya, when contacted, said, “I have also heard about the arrest, but do not have the details.”

Close sources said Kukah’s arrest is connected to his role in the supply of beans to a local processing company involving millions of cedis, a deal management suspected to be shady.

“What raised eyebrows is the fact that the beneficiary processing company had been blacklisted because it owed COCOBOD heavily on account of beans supplied to it,” one source said.

It is unclear whether Nana Oduro Owusu, former Managing Director of the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC), under whose authority Kukah operated, is also being investigated.

Nana Oduro Owusu was moved to the Cocoa Processing Company in March, this year, in a shake-up which also saw the COCOBOD Deputy Chief Executive for Finance and Administration, William Mensah, reassigned to the Ministry of Finance as Advisor to the Minister on cocoa affairs.

That shake-up revealed a lot of rot in the system, including some 90,000 tonnes of beans sold by the CMC but unaccounted for.

Security sources told The Ghanaian Times that investigations were ongoing into the deals which also included under invoicing of cocoa beans purchases at the various warehouses.

“We have uncovered a syndicate that engaged in under invoicing of cocoa bean purchases and then sold those under declared on the open market and pocket the money.

“Our investigations are closing in on all those who are involved, including some high ranking officials of COCOBOD,” it said.

One of the units currently under scrutiny is the Trading Room where an officer recently resigned to the surprise of many, after management appointed a new Marketing Manager.

The new Marketing Manager was highly recommended, and there was a broad consensus that he was the right person to handle the position.

Since assuming office early this year, the new management, led by Dr Stephen Opuni, has embarked on efforts to revive the weakening finances of the Board.

Five out of the 10 indigenous cocoa processing companies in the country owe the COCOBOD $250 million in unpaid bills under the Old Beans Supply Agreement.

That development had compelled COCOBOD to take drastic measures to halt the continued supply of cocoa beans to the companies to save the board from going bankrupt.

The amount owed COCOBOD ranges from $3 million to more than $50 million per company, since 2010.

Dr. Opuni is assisted by Dr Francis Oppong, who is in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, and Mr James Kutsoati, Deputy Chief Executive in-charge of Operations.

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