A close friend of Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Herbert Mensah, has described as “truly unfortunate” money-laundering claims against the monarch after £350,000 was physically transferred into his UK account.
Vouching for the personal integrity of the Asante monarch, the former Asante Kotoko chairman said the allegation is not “worth us thinking about it”.
The UK’s Telegraph and Daily Mail reported the revelations in an ongoing tribunal after the bank official, Mark Frank Arthur, who carried the money in a taxi to deposit at the Ghana Commercial Bank in London.
He was subsequently fired for flouting anti-money laundering regulations and he is currently challenging his sacking in a UK court.
Herbert Mensah before the Asantehene
In Ghana, the subject has triggered reactions somewhat subdued in certain quarters where the king is held in high esteem.
There has been no official reaction from the Manhyia Palace but Herbert Mensah who has an enduring friendship with the king has explained there is “nothing peculiar” to the story.
The king who is not on a salary often receives gifts from subjects and admirers alike.
He said he witnessed a prominent Nigerian give the king a Rolls Royce as a gift while he visited the Otumfuo in the UK.
Reminiscing when he was growing up, Mr Mensah said he saw his father send “massive amounts of money” to the Asantehene.
Like many monarchs, the Asantehene is not to be seen involved in any direct forms of business.
“You don’t get Otumfuo rushing into a bank,” he defended Asante tradition and customs.
The tribunal at the UK, he said appears to be “borne out of internal politics at the bank.”
While he concedes the transfer breached rules, he expressed disgust that it would be stretched to include claims of the Asantehene’s involvement in illicit activities.
He said the allegation is “topical for people” but £350,000 is “relatively small in the scheme of things” pointing to bigger controversies such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) saga.
“For me, it is not a story”, he said stating “I know of the integrity of the Otumfuo”
The queen would never do that – Banker criticises Otumfuo
But in a reaction, an international banker Dr Richmond Kwesi Atuahene has questioned why the Asantehene would authorise the physical transfer of £350,000 into an account in the UK.
Dr Atuahene said the physical movement of cash into the bank in the UK is unbecoming of a royal in the stature of the Asantehene.
“The queen would never do this”, he referred to the British Queen Elizabeth.
In an interview with Joy News, Dr Atuahene was emphatic the transfer is “against all practices whether in Ghana, America or Canada”.
“Withdrawing that kind of money is not professionally done,” he wondered why debit cards were not used to effect the transfer.
He disagreed with Mr Mensah’s suggestion that the amount involved is not a big deal.
“It is a colossal sum of money,” he stressed.
Mr Atuahene insisted that in the UK, withdrawing even £6,000 is a lot of money as his daughter found out recently when she tried to do so in the UK.
“…in that jurisdiction, they are very careful about cash,” he said explaining that using hard cash is often associated with nefarious activities such as drugs.
“People of that stature I mean if you talk about the Queen, she would not do that. They would have card systems where they can go and do whatever they want to do” he observed.