Two Chinese and a Ghanaian are in the grip of the National Security Secretariat (NSS) in Accra over the movement of 21 gold bars from Gbane in the Talensi District of the Upper East Region to the national capital.
The three, Rayn Lee, Goa and Michael Atta, were picked up at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) on June 1 when they touched down from Tamale with the gold bars said to be valued at about $600,000.
They are said to be workers of Shaanxi Mining (Ghana) Company Limited, a Chinese firm that was licensed to provide mine support services to small-scale miners in the Gbane area, and EARL International Group, a sister firm.
The three are currently in the custody of the national security body to assist in investigations into the circumstances leading to the mining and transportation of the precious metal, as well as the relationship between their companies and Yenyeya Mining Company Limited, one of the small-scale mining firms in the area.
The lawyer for Yenyeya, Madam Juliet Dale Agboh, told Graphic Online last Wednesday that the three persons were staff of EARL Group, who played various roles in the illegal mining of gold on his client’s concession.
“These are Chinese who invaded the concession of a small-scale miner, mined illegally in contravention of Ghanaian laws and they were caught lifting gold to sell outside Ghana. Now that they are in custody, my client will cooperate with the NSS and we hope that they will be charged appropriately after the investigations and prosecuted for the illegalities committed,” he said.
According to him, although Yenyeya Company Limited brought Shaanxi Mining to Gbane to provide mine support services, the Chinese company had created a sister company in EARL which it used to undertake illegal mining on the same concession for almost 10 years now.
Madam Agboh said the activities of EARL cost Yenyeya about $50 million over the period, which it hoped to claim in a civil proceeding after the criminal prosecution of the directors of EARL by the State.
When asked why it took her client so long to take action against the Chinese, the legal representative of Yenyeya said “he had to choose between life and money and he chose life”.
She, however, added that the situation had gotten to the extent where they found it necessary to involve the security, especially after the Chinese firm was not forthcoming with requests to account for gold mined.
The Public Relations Officer of Shaanxi, Mr Maxwell Wooma, confirmed to Graphic Online in a separate interview last Wednesday that some staff members of the company had been detained by the NSS in Accra to help address concerns over the quantity of gold mined and transported.
He said the gold was being transported to Accra for sale to help sustain the company’s operations.
He, however, said he was unaware of the quantity of the gold in question and the market value.
While also insisting that he did not know the names of the people involved, Mr Wooma said he was surprised to hear that the staff were handcuffed and later detained, given that the issue at hand did not border on criminality but on a disagreement between the two partners on the reconciliation of gold mined.
He denied allegations that EARL Group was involved in mining, explaining that Shaanxi was still providing mine support services to Yenyeya and other small-scale miners while the EARL Group was working on securing full approval to be able to undertake large-scale mining in the area.
Mr Wooma expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved amicably to allow for the sale of the gold to help pay the salaries of the company’s workers, who were 725 in number.