An interesting aspect of Ghanaian swindler Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh is that he persistently tries to gain access to universities around the world. He applies for all kinds of courses, master studies, scholarships and grants. However, most universities and scholarship organizations who check his diplomas and transcripts turn him down.
Checking Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh’s academic track record was a time-intensive investigation, during which we contacted nine universities in six countries. Based on what we found we are confident to conclude that he fabricated his diplomas, transcripts and recommendations, and doesn’t hold an academic title. Therefore he is not qualified to apply for any master program at any university.
In this longread we also explain in detail how universities check the diplomas of international applicants, and what role scholarships play in this.
I – ADDEAH PREMPEH’S CV CLAIMS
But let’s first have a look at his own claims. While Addeah Prempeh’s LinkedIn profile is more or less empty, his Facebook profile mentions that he studied at three universities:
He claims he graduated in 2008 in Agricultural Economics at the University of Ghana (diploma date 14 June). Pictures, posts and comments on his Facebook timeline suggest he also did part of his studies at Sunway University in Malaysia, and visited the University of Colorado Denver and the Berlin School of Economics and Law in 2010. In a bio he wrote for the website of the Netherlands-based Quest For Wisdom Foundation he states that he holds a BSc. and an MSc.
In the Netherlands Addeah Prempeh recently applied for master studies at three universities: the University of Amsterdam (Biology), Leiden University (Biology) and Wageningen University (Organic Agriculture), all starting in September 2019. At the UvA he also applied for a master program in Earth Science and a course in International Investment and Trade Law. At Wageningen University he also applied for a course in Lost Harvest and Wasted Food. And he applied for an OKP scholarship.
We also contacted two other international universities of which sources had informed us that he applied there for a master program, PhD and/or scholarship. This is still under investigation.
II – HOW UNIVERSITIES RESPONDED TO OUR FACT-CHECK
It was not easy to fact-check his academic curriculum vitae. Some universities were hesitant to provide information and in those cases we had to find a way around the ‘gatekeepers’ to identify other sources within those institutions with access to data systems who could help us. To not compromise these sources, we offered them source protection. This is what we found:
The University of Ghana created unnecessary red tape and was not willing to help us fact-check if Addeah Prempeh really graduated there, and if so in which field and at what level. For the record: we did not ask for any personal information on which data protection laws would apply, only for a simple verification of information that we already had.
The University of Ghana’s attitude in this case implies that – apparently – anyone can claim to have graduated there, or at any other university for that matter, while there is no easy way for the media, potential employers or the public to check if this is really true. This is not good for a university’s reputation.
We learned however that there’s an exception to the rule: other universities are allowed to check a candidate, when they can provide a copy of a candidate’s certificate and/or transcript. This is how we discovered indirectly that Addeah Prempeh might have studied at the University of Ghana, but never graduated because he broke off his studies. More about this later.
The University of Colorado Denver was quick to reply: “Our records indicate that Kwadwo Addeah possibly was a prospective student, however, we do not have any records of his attendance or enrollment.” This is interesting, as Addeah claims he spent five months in Denver to study “a diploma short course in American English and History.” So to be 100% sure we double-checked with the Registrar, and she confirmed: “We were able to look this student up in our basic ‘person’ search but were not able to see any enrollment/attendance for this class. Usually this means the student applied for or showed interest in attending our university, but never attended or enrolled in any classes.” So on his Facebook timeline Addeah suggested he was in Denver, but he certainly never studied at this university. Remarkably, in the week of 16 September 2019, before this article was published, he removed the University of Colorado from his Facebook profile.
The Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR). Addeah’s Facebook timeline suggests he applied for a course in Berlin in the Summer of 2010, and that he visited the city, but there’s no proof of his attendance. Also this university entry suddenly disappeared from his Facebook profile. As we made a webarchive copy of his whole timeline, we still have the original to proof it. The press spokesperson of the Berlin School of Economics and Law responded in an e-mail on October 3, 2019, stating: “It took some time to check all the records of a decade. I can inform you now that to our knowledge there are no records of a former student of the name of Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh at our university.” That settles it: he never studied there.
Sunway University in Malaysia responded. A senior executive of the Examination Unit of the Registry mailed us: “Mr Addeah-Prempeh Kwadwo was a full-time student of Sunway University from 14 August 2008 to 07 January 2009. He was enrolled in the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme, but did not complete the aforementioned programme of study and is deemed to have not achieved the degree.” So he signed up, but never finished it. The university also confirmed that Addeah did not receive a scholarship for his studies. Based on the many pictures on his Facebook timeline he seemed to have had a good time with the female students though.
The University of Amsterdam (UvA) responded, but was not willing provide the information we requested. However, another source at the UvA confirmed that his applications had been turned down because he didn’t have the appropriate background to be eligible for these studies, and his English proviciency test was also outdated. At our request, the UvA provided us with a detailed explanation how they check the diplomas of international students.
Leiden University didn’t want to provide information about a specific student either, but was willing to clarify in detail how applications by international students are being checked by the university.
III – HOW UNIVERSITIES CHECK DIPLOMAS
So before we proceed with our findings, let’s first address the question how Dutch universities (and other universities use similar due diligence procedures) check applications from international students. The Uva pointed us to this article (Google Translate version of the original article in Dutch) that explains their procedure. Students who want to apply for a Dutch university first have to sign up to a secured website where they can upload an authorized copy of their diplomas and transcripts. A transcript is an overview of achieved results – courses passed and grades awarded.
Nuffic, the Dutch organization for internationalisation in education, plays a key role in checking diplomas. They offer a country modules tool that universities can use to check whether a foreign diploma is valid in the Netherlands. Here you can see how that looks for Ghana. Nuffic also helps universities to weigh an applicant’s education and courses, whether it’s sufficient to qualify for the specific program they applied for. Finally students also have to provide recent certificates that proof their profiency in English or math.
When we asked Leiden University about their additional requirements, their press spokesperson responded: “For our master programs we require one or two letters of recommendation, of which one needs to be academic, so written and signed by a staff member of the university where the applicant studied.”
Nuffic added: “Our experts in the field of education systems and diplomas have been trained to recognize the authenticity of documents, and we also train universities to do this themselves. In case of doubt, we check references and also contact the university in the country of origin, where a check can be done based on the original documents, authenticity of stamps and signatures.” The Nuffic press spokesperson also explained that it’s common for applicants to apply to multiple universities, without really becoming a student. Some want to spread their chances or choice options, others are mainly interested in a scholarschip, and if this is not provided, drop their application.
IV – HOW LEIDEN UNIVERSITY UNMASKED ADDEAH PREMPEH
So universities carefully check international students’ applications. Leiden University also followed this due dilligence procedure and, based on what they found, decided to decline Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh’s application. It was from an unexpected source (which we offered source protection under Dutch law) that we learned why. We received a copy of the correspondence between Leiden University’s senior admission officer / credential evaluator and Addeah Prempeh. The officer wrote:
“With reference to your request for admission to the master’s program in Biology we hereby inform you that we have examined your diplomas and transcripts, that we have noticed that they have been altered, and that we have been unable to confirm the authenticity of your academic records. We will consequently no longer consider your application for admission. Please note that fraud is a serious offence and that Leiden University may take further action in this matter. Note that we have also contacted the University of Ghana.”
This a strong statement. Leiden University checked Addeah Prempeh’s diplomas and transcripts, and concluded that he committed fraud.
How did he respond to this rejection? With a quite incredible explanation.
First he admitted that this is already the fifth e-mail of this type that he received from institutions around the world. No surprise here!
Then he admitted to the officer that although he initially attended the University of Ghana, he broke off his studies at some point to pursue his ‘agricultural ambitions’: “My own agribusiness project, which has become the envy of many in my country because of its booming nature.” Right. So he never graduated and holds no diploma. This was a plain lie from the start.
His third statement was even more outrageous. He said he never applied to Leiden University. Someone hacked his e-mail account, impersonated him, and then applied to the university with fabricated versions of his documents, to damage him and make him look like a fraudulous person. Why? Because his late father, Dr. Kwaku Addeah, had many political enemies, and after he died in 2018 somehow Addeah inherited these political enemies, who plotted against his life and good reputation. He asked the officer to mail him all the fabricated documents, so “my country’s security apparatus can investigate who is behind these.” Addeah Prempeh is a total nutcake if he expects a trained credential evaluator to believe this nonsense.
Fourthly he stated that he is so busy with his commercial agribusiness that he doesn’t have time to apply to universities anyway. Which is interesting, as he acted in exactly the opposite way. He travelled to the Netherlands in March 2019 and stayed there three months because he was so keen to enrol in Wageningen University and get a scholarship.
Finally he wanted to make sure the Leiden University officer understood that he is from a well-known and respected family in Ghana (a returning theme), maintains good relationships with many foreign ambassadors in his nation (a returning theme), and that he has a wonderful track record in helping young people in Ghana develop their skills and find jobs (also a returning theme).
How did Leiden University respond? The officer was not impressed and remarked that she had not received any e-mails from Addeah, because his application was submitted through the university’s (secured) online application portal. In other words: he applied and uploaded those forged documents himself.
V – HOW WAGENINGEN UNIVERSITY RESPONDED
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) provided Addeah Prempeh with this admission letter (pdf) dated 31 October 2018, in which the university states: “We are pleased to inform you that the Academic Committee on Admissions of Wageningen University has admitted you to the Master programme MOA – MSc Organic Agriculture. Please note that you have been admitted on the basis of your pre education: non-Dutch diploma AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS.”
Not only did WUR give him admission to the master’s program, they also nominated him for a scholarship of the Orange Knowledge Program (OKP), a funding program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was confirmed to us by a reliable source.
For students from outside the European Union studying at a Dutch university can be expensive. Wageningen University for instance charges a student from Ghana € 18,000 in tuition fees. So it’s logical that many students from developing countries apply for an OKP scholarship that covers 95% of their costs. Though in the case of Addeah Prempeh, given the fact that he claims to be a rich banker / businessman, one could ask if it’s ethically right to pursue a scholarship that could also be granted to a student without any personal means. But we know by now that Addeah Prempeh is not concerned about ethics and prefers a ‘free ride’. Why pay for your own studies, if others can pay it for you?
While Leiden University discovered that his diploma and transcript of the University of Ghana were false, Wageningen University apparently overlooked that and not only admitted him into the program, but also nominated him for a scholarship. We asked the university how this is possible. How could they have missed this in their checks? Ingrid Hijman, the university’s Head of Student Services and Simon Vink, the university’s spokesperson immediately became defensive. “An admission letter is no proof of registration,” Mrs. Hijman said. “It only means a student passed the formal demands for access.” She was unwilling to answer our question where in the process Wageningen University performs a more thorough check on diplomas and transcripts.
Mr. Vink sent us the standard response we literally also received from another university: “We check diplomas by asking all foreign diploma holders for certified copies of the diploma / grade list, sent directly to us by the school or university in a sealed envelope. If possible, the prior education is also verified online in the various national or institution databases. When checking the documents, we use knowledge about education systems, do a consistency check and document research. In case of doubt, additional research is done, e.g. into the referees. In the event of established fraud, we close the admission request. And finally, in the context of knowledge sharing, cases of fraud are regularly discussed within a national consultation of university admission officers, without of course exchanging personal data.”
We informed WUR that apparently another Dutch university had come to a different conclusion. By that time, in June 2019, they were already aware that Addeh Prempeh had duped accommodations in Ede and Wageningen, which makes their attidude even more questionable. The Dutch embassy in Ghana, whose role it is to assess the OKP scholarships for Ghana, was already aware of the issues with Prempeh half May. According to our source Addeah Prempeh’s OKP scholarship nomination was declined in early June, likely because of this. Only 1 out of 17 OKP scholarship applications get granted anyway.
When Addeah Prempeh heard that he would not receive money to pay for his tuition fees at Wageningen University, he dropped his plan to study there and went back to Ghana. In August 2019 WUR, just weeks before the start of the master’s program, declined his application. It’s not clear whether this is based on a more thorough second check of his documents, because he didn’t pay the tuition fees, or because he swindled their own students.
IV – CONCLUSIONS
Our investigation shows that Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh tried to gain access to multiple universities around the world. Only of two universities – the University of Ghana and Sunway University in Malaysia – we know that he really studied there. However, in both cases he broke off his studies and never graduated. This also implies that he holds no BSc or Msc and lied about this. He also lied about having studied at the University of Colorado Denver and the Berlin School of Economics and Law. Three Dutch universities all turned him down, of which one – Leiden University – discovered that he had committed fraud with this diplomas and/or transcripts. He was also denied an OKP scholarship, based on an assessment by the Dutch Embassy in Ghana.