Three Ghanaians Charged With Arms Purchase Conspiracy
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Three Ghanaian nationals, including a former finance minister who established an opposition movement, have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to purchase missiles and other weapons for a 100-member military force in the African nation, officials say.
Joseph Henry Mensah, 57, of London, England, John Andrews Boateng, 44, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kwasi John Baidoo, 40, of Rockaway Township, were arrested Sunday as they left a meeting with an undercover agent at a parking lot near Newark International Airport, Special Agent Art Stiffel said.
Stiffel said the three were charged with conspiracy and violating the Arms Export Act. They were to be arraigned today in federal court.
Stiffel said Mensah was carrying a blue booklet identifying him as a member of the Ghana Democratic Movement, which investigators believe was to receive the weapons.
Ghana is governed by Jerry John Rawlings, an air force officer who staged a coup in 1982. Rawlings suspended the constitution and established a Provincial National Defence Council to exercise all government powers.
Mensah was finance minister in the civilian government of K.H. Busiah from 1969 until it was toppled by the military in 1972. He was jailed twice, spending more than four years in prison before being released in June 1978.
He moved to London, and in March 1984 announced formation of the Ghana Democratic Movement, inviting participation of all Ghanaians ″who believe in the restoration of democracy in Ghana and are prepared to fight for it.″
It is believed to have branches in Togo, the Ivory Coast and New York and is regarded as the main organization of Ghanian dissident exiles, drawing support from Ghanaian businessmen and conservative students who want to topple the radical left-wing Rawlings regime.
Stiffel said Boateng works as a cab driver in Brooklyn, Baidoo is employed as a computer technician and Mensah is an economic consultant. Stiffel said Boateng and Baidoo are resident aliens in the United States.
Stiffel said customs agents began their investigation four months ago when ″an internal source″ told officials that the Ghanaians were seeking to buy arms. An undercover agent contacted them and set up a meeting during which the suspects allegedly presented the agent with a shopping list of weapons and ammunition.
The agent pretended to be an arms dealer who specialized in selling weapons to revolutionary movements, Stiffel said.
He said they wanted to buy about $250,000 in weapons, including automatic rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, portable antiaircraft guns, SAM and Blow Pipe missiles and 100 camouflage outfits.
″They wanted to obtain enough military hardware to equip a 100-man unit,″ Stiffel said.
Under the agreement, the undercover agent was to transport the weapons to Ghana by ship and bribe local officials to get them through customs there. Stiffel said the shipment was to be the first of several weapons deals.