Dubious Lands Ministry Staff Jailed 15 Months
A staff of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources who was arrested last Tuesday, September 13, for impersonation and extortion has been sentenced to 15 months in prison in hard labour.
Gabriel Gyamerah Sarpong, an IT specialist at the ministry, was slapped with 15 months’ imprisonment by an Accra Circuit Court, last Friday, after he was arrested for using the name of Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, George Mireku Duker, to defraud illegal miners.
He was convicted on his own plea of defrauding by false pretense. He, however, pleaded not guilty on the count of falsely pretending to be a public officer.
The court, presided over by Evelyn Asamoah, sentenced him accordingly to 15 months in prison in hard labour.
Mr. Muda Ade Lawal, the counsel for the convict, praying for non-custodial sentence, said Mr. Sarpong was a good citizen and IT specialist until the devil pushed him in to the vice.
“If given custodial sentence, he will be mixed with hardened criminals and will come out worse,” he said.
The counsel said the convict was sober and regretted his actions and that was why he pleaded guilty.
“Temper justice with mercy to hand him non-custodial sentence,” he added.
He said the convict had a wife and two children and if given custodial sentence, his wife and children would have problems.
The court adjourned the matter to October 5, 2022. The prosecution was asked to file disclosures and witness statements.
Assistance Superintendent of Police (ASP), Mr. Evans Kesse, told the court that the complainant was George Mireku-Duker, a deputy minister of lands and natural Resources.
He said that, sometime in December, last year, the convict contacted a witness in the case to meet so they could talk about a business deal.
The prosecution said the following week, the witness met the convict and told him that the business was about mining and since the witness had been to various mining sites in the country, he could best execute the task.
He said, in the same month, the convict called the witness on phone and told him that the deputy minister had authorized that the witness could mobilise his men to operate as such.
The prosecution said the convict then gave a fake MTN number 0244916900 as the deputy minister’s contact number, through which he could call when he needed him.
The witness then mobilised his men and went to Obuasi, met the police and called the MTN number the accused gave to him as the deputy minister’s number for the said minister to communicate with the police for confirmation.
He said the convict, who responded as the said minister, told the Obuasi Divisional Commander to accord the team any assistance needed.
He said the witness, after their operations, realised cash of more GHC200,000 and sent same to the convict, who had impersonated as deputy minister Duker.
ASP Kesse said the witness, after operating at Obuasi, decided to proceed to Manso Nkwanta for another operation and met the municipal chief executive (MCE), where the witness told the MCE about his mission in the town and tried to reach out to the deputy minister on the MTN number given to him by the convict, but there was no response.
The Manso Nkwanta MCE then alerted the witness that it would be in his own interest to come down to Accra to meet with the deputy minister and verify if he had really sanctioned their task.
On September 13, this year, the witness met with the deputy minister and disclosed that he had been working at the mining sites on his authorization.
The prosecution said the deputy minister denied knowledge of it and sent for the convict whom after questioning was handed over to police.
The convict, in his investigation caution statement, admitted to the offence and indicated that he used part of the money he received from the witness to purchase a black Elantra saloon vehicle and invested part of it into his building located at Amasaman.
Meanwhile, giving details on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, Mr. Duker, in an interview on graphiconline, said that the now convict had used his name (deputy minister) to extort money from the “galamsey operators” for about a year now, but was picked up upon a tip- off.
“He used my name to extort money and represented himself as Mireku Duker.
“He even called police officers introducing himself as the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.
“He took documents from some of the people and promised to work on it for them,” Mr. Duker, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tarkwa-Nsuaem constituency, added.
Asked how long Mr. Sarpong had been engaged in that act, Mr. Duker said, “He has been doing this for the past one year, but his cup is full now.”
“People use our names to defraud others and this case will be used to serve as deterrent to others who think they can hide behind the ministry and be aiding illegal mining activities,” he stressed.
Mr. Duker said the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources will go all length to ensure that the suspect faced the law.
“I have been going around and appealing to people to help protect our water bodies and I will not allow this to happen. He will be put before court tomorrow,” he said.