- Eight customs officers have been arrested in Ghana after an undercover reporter had filmed their role in an extensive smuggling network. More than 40 officers are to have smuggled cocoa to Côte d'Ivoire.
Investigative journalist and editor of the 'New Crusading Guide' newspaper Anas Aremeyaw Anas went undercover for three months to study one of the most asked questions in Ghana: How is it possible that such a great part of the country's key cocoa harvest ends up in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire?
His investigations ended up in a video documentary that has dominated Ghanaian headlines lately. Mr Anas revealed a network of at least 40 corrupt customs officers that facilitated the cocoa smuggling. Eight of these officers were caught on film and as such indentified.
Today, the Ghanaian government announces that the eight customs officers have been detained and will face corruption charges. Colleagues working closely with the eight detained were immediately transferred to other border posts with an aim of destroying the rest of the corrupt network.
A statement by the Ghanaian customs service says investigations into the corrupt network are still ongoing. Meanwhile "a more robust management assurance system" had been put in place, by which senior customs personnel would "pay unannounced visits to field officers on duty to monitor their conducts and performances."
While journalist Anas said he was relieved his documentary finally had led to arrests, he reminded authorities that his undercover work had indicated a network of at least 40 corrupt customs officers. He called for more arrests to be made.
The revelations made in the documentary video have also led to a new debate on cocoa pricing in Ghana. Currently, the Ivorian government is paying between 40 and 50 percent more for cocoa to its farmers than the Ghanaian government.
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) this week therefore urged government to review its cocoa pricing policy, saying the great price difference was "the cause of the smuggling." It was "naive" to believe that government gained most revenues by paying low prices to Ghanaian farmers while achieving high prices at the world market, the NPP said.
"The amount of cocoa smuggled when such price difference exists across our borders causes far more loss of revenue to the state than the additional revenue we get by paying lower prices to our farmers," the opposition statement held.
Others however have criticised the government of Côte d'Ivoire of practically subsidising their large cocoa industry by offering inflated producer prices for decades. These high prices nevertheless helped Côte d'Ivoire becoming the world's largest cocoa producer, surpassing Ghana in the 1970s and now producing twice as much cocoa as Ghana, at least according to official numbers that include cocoa smuggled from Ghana.
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