Information filtering in from Ellembele in the Western Region indicates that the District Chief Executive (DCE), Kwasi Bonzoh, the Director of National Investigation Bureau (NIB), formally BNI, in charge of the district and a member of the Ellembelle Small Scale Mining Committee, Francis Apeni, were arrested last week Friday over the missing excavator saga.
Whereas Kwasi Bonzoh confirmed to The Chronicle that he was arrested and made to write a statement, the Divisional Police Commander, ACP Hlordzi Dordzi denied the claim when this reporter contacted him, insisting that the DCE and the BNI officer were never arrested.
He, however, admitted that Mr Francis Apeni, the Small Scale Mining Committee member, who he (ACP Hlordzi) described as the Special Assistant to the DCE, was arrested.
He told this reporter, via telephone, that he the Divisional Commander, the District Commander and the two officers, alleged to have guarded the said excavators, have all given their statements to the Police.
Despite the insistence of the police that they did not arrest the BNI officer (name withheld), sources close to him confided in The Chronicle that he was indeed arrested and was granted bail, with one of the senior police officers reportedly standing surety for him.
Francis Apeni, the Ellembelle Small Scale Mining Committee member on his part told this reporter that he was indeed arrested and later granted bail in connection with the missing excavator.
Last week Friday, the Spear of the Nation carried a front page banner headline, where DCE Bonzoh claimed that two excavators seized from illegal miners and kept in the custody of the police have disappeared.
The police at the time declined to speak to The Chronicle on the matter, when they were contacted.
The DCE had told reporters that when the excavators were seized and handed over to the police, he called the Police Command, who was reluctant to guard the equipment, with the explanation that they did not have enough men.
However, the Police Command later agreed to assign two officers to guard the seized equipment, but on condition that they would guard it to 6pm. By the next morning, the seized excavators had disappeared into thin air.
How the seized excavators disappeared from the custody of the police is unknown. This led to the DCE expressing his disgust over the development, saying it appears illegal mining has become an organised crime, with too many actors fighting those fighting the canker.
But immediately the Chronicle publication hit the newsstands, the police issued a statement denying the claim by the DCE.
The Police statement, with the headline -“POLICE DID NOT TAKE CUSTODY OF ANY EXCAVATORS AS ALLEGED BY ELLEMBELLE DCE” reads;
The Western Regional Command has noted with concern a report in Friday edition of The Chronicle newspaper, which alleged that some two excavators, which were in the custody of the Police at Ellembelle have disappeared.
We wish to categorically state that no excavators were handed over to the Police by the DCE or any other person from the Assembly. We, therefore, urge the public to disregard the publication and treat it with the contempt it deserves.
Meanwhile, the DCE, his personal Assistant and one other, are being investigated in connection with the alleged missing excavators. We wish to assure the public that anybody implicated in the course of the investigation will be taken through due process of the law.
Sources close to the police told The Chronicle yesterday that they are conducting meticulous investigation into the case to unravel how the two excavators disappeared.
Though Francis Apeni, a member of the Ellembelle Small Scale Mining Committee, is now a suspect in the case, he told news men in Ellembelle yesterday that he led two police officers to the site where the seized galamsey excavators were parked.
According to him, after going to the police to report the seizure of the excavators by his team, the Police gave him two personnel to the site to guard the excavators.
Apeni alleged that he drove the two police personnel, who he named as Eric Koranteng and Abdul Razak Muhammed to the site.
At the site, he said, he pointed to the seized excavators and the two police officers saw the machines. He then left the excavators in the custody of the two police personnel with the sole aim of going to Takoradi to look for low loader trucks to come and cart the (excavators) away. He further told the journalists that he could not get the truck when he went to Takoradi, but he learnt the following day that the excavators have vanished from the site.
Surprised, he went back to the Police station to report the missing excavators. His statement, he said, was officially taken by the police at the charge office.
He mentioned Abdul Razak Muhammed as one who took his statement when he reported of the missing excavators, after he had taken the two police personnel to the site to guard the equipment.