The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has recovered an amount of ¢1.074 million from a company owned by a member of the Council of State, Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh.

According to the OSP, the amount represents a shortfall in import duties paid to the state.

The OSP made the revelation in an investigative report titled: “Report of Investigation into Alleged Commission of Corruption and Corruption Related Offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority”.

The OSP contended that Ms Asomah-Hinneh used her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

The report signed by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, alleged that the influence-peddling by Ms Asomah-Hinneh led to a reduction in the tax liabilities for her frozen foods company, Labianca Company Limited.

A Deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, Joseph Adu Kyei was cited by the OSP for issuing what it described as an unlawful customs advance ruling.

This, according to the report, reduced the benchmark values of the goods imported by Labianca Limited translating to reduced tax obligations of the company to the state.

“The OSP finds that there is strong evidence to suggest that Mr Kyei’s decision to issue a customs advance ruling for the applicant was procured through influence peddling or trading of influence by Ms Asomah-Hinneh by employing her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the GPHA,” part of the report reads.

Background

On 16 November 2021, the OSP received a written complaint from one Frank Asare against Labianca Group of Companies and its subsidiaries and Customs Division.

According to the report, the complainant alleged ongoing corrupt, illegal and questionable dealings between Labianca and the Customs Division resulting in unlawful markdown or reduction of benchmark values of frozen food products imported by Labianca under the guise of customs advance rulings.

The complainant also noted that the unlawful markdowns or reductions of benchmark values were chiefly because the beneficial owner of Labianca wields political influence.

The OSP says following the petition, it began its preliminary investigation into the matter in accordance with regulation 5 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (Operations) Regulations, 2018.

The OSP subsequently interviewed parties connected to the issue before publishing the report and its findings.