Three Ghanaian Nationals Seized in Weapons Conspiracy
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Customs agents arrested three Ghanaian nationals Sunday on charges they conspired to buy missiles, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons to arm a 100- member group in the African nation.
The three men were captured peacefully at a parking lot near Newark International Airport following a meeting with an undercover agent, said Special Agent Art Stiffel.
The men, arrested after a four-month investigation, were identified as Joseph Henry Mensah, 67, of London, England; John Andrews Boateng, 44, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kwasi John Baidoo, 40, of Rockaway Townsip.
Mensah, an economic consultant, carried a document identifying him as a member of the Ghana Democratic Movement, and investigators believed the weapons were earmarked for that group, Stiffel said. He did not know what the objectives of the organization are.
Ghana is governed by Jerry John Rawlings, an air force officer who took over in a 1982 coup. Rawlings suspended the constitution and established a Provincial National Defense Council to exercise all government powers.
Stiffel said the arrested men wanted to buy about $250,000 in weapons, including automatic rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, portable anti- aircraft guns, surface-to-air missiles and 100 camouflage outfits.
″They wanted to obtain enough military hardware to equip a 100-man unit,″ Stiffel said.
Boateng works as a taxi driver in Brooklyn and Baidoo is employed as a computer technician, said Stiffel. Both men have resident alien status in the United States.
The three men were charged with conspiracy and violating the arms export act, said Stiffel.
As they were led out of U.S. Customs offices Sunday en route to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, the men did not answer reporters’ questions and kept their coats wrapped around their heads to shield them from photographers. They were to be arraigned in federal court on Monday.
Customs agents began their investigation when a source told officials that the three men were seeking to buy arms. An undercover agent contacted them and set up a meeting during which the suspects presented the agent with a shopping list.
Sunday’s meeting at the airport parking lot was the second between undercover agents and the men, and was purportedly set up to work out technical details of the shipment. Under the agreement, the undercover agent was to transport the weapons to Ghana by ship and bribe local officials to get them through customs Stiffel said.