Insanely high returns are certainly motivating enough to make a man ignore all warnings, even glaring danger signs. That is the case for many Ghanaians, who, in spite of series of public notices by the Bank of Ghana warning them against unregulated gold trade with Menzgold, have continued to transact business with the company. Investigations by Joy News reveal the business is continuing unabated with many Ghanaians ignoring the warning and buying gold from a subsidiary of the company, Brew Marketing Consult.
When Joy News’ investigative journalists visited the premises of Brew Marketing, a subsidiary of Menzgold, there was brisk business going on. Within ten minutes, four people brought in huge cash to purchase the gold.
At the East Legon office of Menzgold, activities were even more intense with many submitting their receipts together with gold purchased from Brew Marketing and others filling out forms to take their monthly dividends.
The purchased gold is, to use the company's own words, is traded for a monthly return of seven percent on the value of the gold. The monthly returns used to range from a minimum of seven percent to a maximum of 12 percent of the value of gold purchased.
Previously, anyone who purchased gold worth 24,000 cedis and above, and submitted same to Menzgold with the accompanying receipt, was entitled to a monthly dividend of 10% of the amount. You also required to pay 5% of the value of gold purchased as commission to Menzgold. At various times, the company ran promotions which required investors to buy gold worth 400,000 cedis and receive over 500,000 cedis worth of gold and a monthly dividend of 12% on the 500,000 cedis over a period of three or six months.
But when some journalists from the Multimedia Group visited the company’s premises last week, they were told the monthly dividend was now fixed at seven percent.
Menzgold has no licence to engage in this kind of business. A licence agreement between the government of Ghana and Menzgold allowed the company to only buy and export gold.
The agreement states, “The company [Menzbanc] is hereby authorised to purchase gold locally from any person holding a small-scale mining licence (“small scale miner”) at the Company’s registered offices in Ghana and to export same in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.”
In 2016, the Minerals Commission stated in a letter that the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources granted Menzgold a "License to Buy and Export Gold." The license required that Menzgold "purchase gold from any person holding a small scale mining license and to export the gold."
The letter continued: "The license also entitled Menzgold to register persons who would be certified by the Commission as licensed buying agents of Menzgold to enable them to buy gold on behalf of the company."
With this licence, Menzgold invited the general public to purchase gold from its sister company, Brew Marketing Consult, and deposit same with the company for a dividend. It nonetheless insisted it was not taking deposits and this much was stated boldlyon the wall at Brew Marketing.
The Bank of Ghana insisted this constituted deposit-taking which should be regulated under the Banks and Specialised Deposit-Taking Institutions Act which prohibits an institution from taking deposits without a license.
The central bank consequently issued both verbal and written notices warning the general public against the transactions.
But many defied the warnings obviously because the returns were too juicy to ignore.
Menzgold has a chequered history of running an unregulated business and sparring with the Central Bank.
The company started its operations in the Central region under the name Menzbank.
The BoG cited it for engaging in illegal deposit-taking in the Kasoa area of the Central Region. It was then operating as a microfinance company.
In March 2015, the BoG issued a notice warning the public against dealing with Menzbank – a notice which attracted a threat of legal suit from the company.
After proof by the central bank to the company that it was engaged in an illegal use of the word ‘bank’ contrary to law as well as operating as a microfinance company, the suit was withdrawn.
The company subsequently changed its name, one of the leviathans of private legal practice in Ghana, Ace Anan Ankomah, said on Newsfile. It became Menzbanc.
The change in name, however, did not stop the central bank from issuing more notices warning the public.
A notice in April 2016 warned the public against depositing money with Menzbanc while another in July warned the company to stop its “illegal deposit-taking activities.”
In 2017, Menzbanc changed its name to Menzgold and mandated its subsidiary to sell gold to the general public who then deposited the gold and received a monthly dividend ranging between 7% and 12% depending on the amount invested.
In May this year, the governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison, after a Monetary Policy Committee meeting, said the regulator was considering taking action against the company for its activities.
On August 6, 2018, the BoG issued another notice cautioning the public against doing business with the company – a notice which irked the company and attracted an angry tweet from the Chief Executive of the company, Nana Appiah Mensah, who called the notice a joke and accused the Bank of dabbling in propaganda. He later apologised for the tweets.
Also, in August, Joy News which had been investigating the Menzgold trade, revealed the company was not licensed to engage in the kind of business it was undertaking.
On Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, a September 2017 letter from the Minerals Commission directing Menzgold to cease its activity was read copiously.
In spite of these, the company remained adamant, just as its loyal customers who obviously considered the risk worth taking given the rather jaw-dropping dividends.
Now SEC has asked the company to cease this trade. Many Ghanaians- home and abroad – are likely to have their funds locked up the company for some time.