In Spring 2019 Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh swindled a Ghanaian school teacher for 21,000 Cedi (4,200 US Dollar). As this was her entire life savings, it landed her in financial distress and depression. In this criminal act he abused the Ghana Library Authority, the Dutch Embassador to Ghana and Dutch NGO Quest For Wisdom Foundation. This is our reconstruction of what happened.
In late 2018 and early 2019 Kwadwo Addeah Prempeh lived in the Bijlmer area of Amsterdam. The neighborhood hosts a large Ghanaian migrant community. Why he moved there is unclear, though it could be related to his application at the University of Amsterdam. In this period he volunteered with two organizations, Burennetwerk and the Vrijwilligers Centrale Amsterdam, for small unpaid jobs. This landed him with a Dutch NGO, the Quest For Wisdom Foundation in Weesp, near Amsterdam.
This organization holds an official cultural charity status and is led by philosopher Heidi Muijen. It aims to “stimulate intercultural learning and diversity as a way to gain wisdom.” Impressed by Addeah’s gentle and thoughtful appearance, and without any background checks, the board members of this foundation immediately invited him to contribute articles to their website Wijsheidsweb, articles that Muijen also quoted in a contribution for scientific magazine Civis Mundi.
THE QUEST FOR WISDOM FOUNDATION
On its Facebook page the Quest For Wisdom Foundation happily announced their collaboration with Addeah Prempeh and the Ghana Readers Club and praised his “great expertise and effort for our foundation.” They also expressed their intention to “contribute to his projects.”
Unknowingly they offered Addeah the exact thing he was looking for with his volunteer work: recognition. Recognition as an author, a wise man, someone who enlightens mankind. His host in Ede would later call it “his Nelson Mandela complex”. Addeah grabbed the opportunity with both hands and wrote a lengthy bio and three articles for the website that are still accessible online. Most articles on this website have a philosophic, esoteric and/or cultural-anthropological edge.
Soon the foundation also involved him in the development of a major project: an educational game and a workshop on storytelling. Louise Müller, a lecturer in African literature and media at Leiden University – ironically the same university that caught Addeah on fraud – worked with him on this project. It gave him a platform and legitimation to also involve others and make his next move.
THE GOLDEN SUNBEAM SCHOOL
In the first quarter of 2019 Addeah connected with ‘Anna’, a staff member of the Golden Sunbeam School in Adenta in the Greater Accra region. For privacy reasons we use a fictitious name for this victim, but we have her full name and contact details on file. Golden Sunbeam is a Montessori school and International College of Science and Technology that provides primary, secondary and tertiary education. It’s a well-known institution of good reputation.
Addeah told Anna that he could get her enrolled in a school library project / course in the Netherlands, which would help advance her career perspectives and also benefit her school. He said that as the acting President of the Ghana Readers Club, part of the Ghana Library Authority, he was working on a cultural-educational exchange / collaboration with the Dutch Quest For Wisdom Foundation. Anna could join their reading and storytelling project that would take place in the Weesp Library during May 2019. Addeah would make all the arrangements for her, but she had to pay the Dutch foundation via him 21,000 Cedi (at that time 4,200 US Dollar) for tuition fees and housing.
For Anna this was a lot of money, over a year’s salary and her whole life savings. But because the opportunity looked good and she had known Addeah’s family for almost ten years, she thought she could trust him. She collected the money from her bank account and submitted it to his account.
Addeah then proceeded to ask Heidi Muijen of the Quest For Wisdom Foundation to send Anna an official invitation letter that she would need to apply for her visa at the Dutch embassy in Accra. In this letter Muijen stated that the foundation didn’t have the funds to pay for Anna’s flight ticket or housing. Addeah hided from her that he had received 21,000 Cedi from Anna. Money that he didn’t use for Anna’s ticket, housing or (non-existent) ‘tuition fees’, but that he spent on his own expenses.
THE DUTCH EMBASSY IN GHANA
This is a good moment to pause and have a closer look at Addeah’s connection with Ron Strikker, the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana. Over the years, using his late father Dr. Kwaku Addeah’s reputation, Addeah had developed connections with various foreign ambassadors in Accra. In 2017 he invited Dutch ambassador Ron Strikker to speak at his Ghana Readers Club event. That same year he also met him at a tax conference. A picture he made at that event, cordially shaking hands with Strikker, features prominently in his agricultural company’s business plan.
Addeah understands the subtle power of ‘name-dropping’ and uses this to gain trust with and impress his victims, as this earlier article illustrates. He also uses his personal connection with these VIPS to his advantage.
To advance his scheme with Anna, Addeah contacted Strikker personally, presenting himself as the still acting President of the Ghana Readers Club – even though at that time he was no longer in office and, as the Ghana Library Authority confirmed, not authorized to act on their behalf. He told Strikker that he found a foundation in the Netherlands that was willing to partner with the Ghana Library Authority in a reading project. The idea was a yearly educational exchange between the Golden Sunbeam School and the Quest For Wisdom Foundation to build bridges between Africa and the West by sharing African folk tales to selected Dutch schools, under the umbrella of the Ghana Readers Club, which would help the Club to grow internationally. “The people of Ghana and myself as President will be forever grateful to you,” Addeah assured him.
Addeah’s hopes were not met. Strikker did not interfere in the visa application process. In April the Dutch embassy declined Anna’s application, because the Dutch foundation could not guarantee her flight and cost of living. Addeah communicated to the foundation another reason for the refusal: Anna’s “lack of travel experience,” which is silly, as a visa application is never denied for such a reason.
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
As the trip was now off, Anna asked Addeah to return the money. He didn’t handle that well. Instead, he turned the whole situation around and accused Anna of insulting and abusing him. “I was doing very well and I had no issues with anyone until you came back into my life again with this idea of assisting you,” he wrote in an e-mail.
He claimed he had used Anna’s money to arrange housing for her in Ede-Wageningen. However, his host in Ede confirmed that Addeah never mentioned housing for Anna and never paid his bill. Addeah also claimed he paid a Ghanaian trading company to get her a residence permit. “This is how most of the West Africans living in Netherlands get their relationships and friends to stay in Netherlands,” he wrote. This is utter nonsense. Resident permits can’t be bought like that, and if they can it’s a clear case of fraud, which is a criminal offense.
Addeah said he didn’t have the money now, but he would pay it back later when his father’s inheritance would be released. Out of this inheritance of GHS 500,000 Addeah would receive a portion of GHS 100,000 (approximately $ 20,000).
But the money didn’t come and Addeah blocked all communication with Anna. It landed her in a difficult situation. She had just gone through a divorce and was struggling to make ends meet. Then her aunt, who raised her like a mother, became ill and died. She described the situation as follows:
“I went through a terrible trauma and depression. That was my entire savings to further my education and he did this to me. Currently I don’t have enough funds to see myself through due to my recent divorce and the death of my mother. She died painfully since I couldn’t afford to pay medical bills. I don’t think I will see the money back. Currently I’m struggling to put my life together, starting from rent to child care and bills. It has been hard on me. I hope to get some relief when the laws deal with him.”
BOARD MEMBERS IN DENIAL
The foundation in the Netherlands was not aware that Addeah had swindled Anna in their name. But they were aware of the fact that two accommodations in Ede and Wageningen had been duped. In May, after noticing Addeah’s articles on Wijsheidsweb, his host in Ede called Heidi Muijen and informed her that they had been swindled. On June 20 he also informed her about the case in Wageningen. Muijen said she was shocked and saddened by the situation, but dit not take any action. She didn’t inform her board, nor confronted Addeah. She continued collaborating with him on the various projects.
When asked why, she replied that the articles he wrote about Ghana, his background, the cultural history and street children, were still valuable to her foundation. “A person can have multiple faces and sides, so we want to keep them on our website,” she said. Muijen also planned on meeting him in Weesp with her whole board. Later she explained that she intended to question him in private about the situation, but that never happened as after his discovery in Wageningen Addeah fled back to Ghana.
Also Louise Müller of Leiden University who worked with Addeah on the educational game and storytelling project for the Quest for Wisdom Foundation preferred to ignore the situation. We contacted her four times by e-mail and two times by phone, but she never replied. When we mailed her a part of this article with the opportunity to respond, she suddenly replied within a day, denied everything categorically and was unwilling to collaborate in our research. Müller continued to work with Addeah on the project until half July.
THE VICTIM SPEAKS OUT
That was the moment that Anna decided to contact both the Dutch Embassy in Ghana, and the Quest for Wisdom Foundation with her story of how Addeah had swindled her. Ambassador Strikker immediately sat down with her to discuss the situation and reported:
“The police has been informed and asked to arrest him. As he likely is still in the country, he is being searched for. The police has already visited his parental home. Of course in due time his swindling of the Dutch accommodations and his indecent way of communication will also be brought forward. I offered Anna all possible help and will also inform the police myself.”
Realizing that Addeah had demanded money from Anna in behalf of her foundation, without their consent, Heidi Muijen also offered help. By e-mail she appealed on Addeah to act ethically and return the money to Anna and the accomodations he had duped, as a condition for further collaboration. “The trust first needs to be restored,” she told him.
As Anna had cc’d both the embassy and the foundation on her e-mails to Addeah, the swindler realised he could loose two important relations and took a flight forward. He apologized for the situation, but said he had acted out of good intentions, things just hadn’t worked out as he’d planned. He would pay Anna back out of the inheritance of his late father by the end of August. Muijen still believed in his good intentions and agreed on this deadline.
PAYBACK TIME OR DISILLUSION?
August passed and in early September – more than 6 months after he took the money from his victim – Addeah still hadn’t paid one Cedi back. Muijen was soft on him and gracefully extended the deadline to 26 September. Anna was not amused and mailed her: “Dr. Heidi, whatever you promised to do to him, kindly begin, because he has shown beyond reasonable doubt that he is not a man of his word.”
Addeah played his ‘but-I-am-a-great-benefactor-now-turned-a-victim’ card: “In Ghana I’ve used my influence to get the children of poor people schools to attend and even gone ahead to pay their school fees, likewise using my links to get deserving young people jobs to do which has helped them to take good care of their families. But it’s sad that when things don’t work out for someone, the good intentions you had are totally forgotten, and you end up being labelled as an evil person.”
Anna reacted strongly in an e-mail in which she cc’d all parties:
“You lied under the pretense of getting me a school to study a course with and went ahead to ask the QFWF to send me an invitation letter, so your story would check out. However, Dr. Heidi Muijen stated that she never received funds from you for a course payment, neither is the QFWF an institution to pursue courses with. You may have taken care of people and assisted them to get into schools and paid fees as well. But on my path, after knowing me for the stated number of years, you lied and cheated your way into making me pay for a school course which never existed in the first place, and that is called swindling and fraud. You used your friendship with the ambassador and Dr. Heidi. Now I’m supposed to wait for your father’s so called inheritance to pay money you took under false pretense. How could you be this inhuman.”
In an effort to control the damage, Addeah responded: “I’ve forwarded all our conversations by email and whatsapp to my siblings and we have taken a decision to as a matter of urgency settle the GHS 21,000 on 26 September 2019, so that this chapter can be laid to rest. I’ve learned a great life lesson from this and I take responsibility for everything.” Anna doubts that his siblings are aware of the situation. “I went to the family house and they have not seen him for over year, neither is he on speaking terms with any of them except for his elder brother.”
Anna was right. The second deadline passed and Addeah didn’t pay anything. He came up with a new excuse – legal procedures that had to be completed before his father’s inheritance could be shared – and a new postponement. Tactics he had also used with his hosts in Ede and Wageningen.
THE MORAL BALANCE
Muijen said she would “make up the moral balance” of the case in early October, and would remove Addeah’s articles from her foundation’s website in case he hadn’t paid. So far no action has been taken. Although Addeah’s abuse of her foundation is a case of swindling and fraud, she was not willing to file an official report with the police. She rejected the notion that her organization functioned as an ‘enabler’, providing Addeah legitimation while tolerating the issues of abuse.