Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World by Yepoka Yeebo - review by Martin Vander Weyer

Martin Vander Weyer

The Ghanaian Job

Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World

By

Bloomsbury 400pp £20
 

‘Ghanaians love their con men. It’s the national sport,’ writes the Anglo-Ghanaian journalist Yepoka Yeebo in her introduction to this tale of world-class fraud, sustained over many years, despite the suspicions of numerous agencies and thanks to the gullibility of legions of investors and intermediaries.

Yeebo’s title refers to the cautionary tales that Ghanaian parents tell their children about Anansi, a legendary trickster who is ‘sometimes a man and sometimes a spider’ and is always trying to deceive someone bigger or stronger than himself. The point of these fables is to teach the children not to be like Anansi, yet he has also become a folk hero. ‘If he told a story about some hidden treasure,’ Yeebo writes, ‘people would dive to the bottom of the sea in search for it.’

And so it was with John Ackah Blay-Miezah, referred to familiarly by Yeebo as ‘our man’. Born in 1941 in the gold-rich British colony then called the Gold Coast (now Ghana), he was a bright, chubby-cheeked village boy who helped pay his own school fees by hawking bottles of kerosene. As an adult he was the architect of the myth of the Oman Ghana Trust Fund, and as such became ‘one of the greatest con artists of all time’.

‘Oman’, by the way, means ‘our nation’ in the indigenous tongue. The great myth was that Blay-Miezah had unique access to a huge treasure chest of perhaps $150 million in gold and investments stashed in Swiss banks by independent Ghana’s first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah. That money, the

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