Stealing from the Sick: Syndicate behind massive thefts of government drugs unmasked

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Tons of stolen drugs were retrieved after the arrests.

A syndicate involved in massive drug thefts, which caused the stores of Ghana’s Upper East Regional Hospital to run out of medicines for years, was unmasked on Friday, 4 August 2023.

During the period in which they outsmarted the system, several patients suffered preventable deaths at the state-run hospital.

And the conditions of other sick persons seeking healthcare services at the facility deteriorated as they were turned away because the government hospital was short of drugs at its pharmacy.

Patients in queue for drugs, some of which are not available at the hospital owing to thefts.

When Media Without Borders launched an investigation into public complaints about drug shortages at the hospital, it trailed the illegal movements of drugs from the hospital’s stores for months, finally uncovering a near-abandoned structure where the stolen medications were being hidden, pending resale miles outside the region.

The hospital’s stores where the staff steal the drugs from.

Before the undercover monitoring began in 2022, the drug thefts were already going on. Tons of government drugs, packaged in boxes labelled with a bold notice that the medications were NOT FOR SALE, had been stolen and sold by the cartel.

The Upper East Regional Hospital.

No fewer than 34 boxes were found when Media Without Borders’ investigative journalist, Edward Adeti, gained access into the hiding place on Thursday, 3 August 2023.

The boxes contained drips, doses of injection powder, metronidazole injections, antimalarial tablets and anaesthesia among others.

The 34 boxes, procured and dispatched by the Ministry of Health to the hospital, were the second batch of medicines stolen from the stores in July alone.

A cross-section of the stolen drugs captured by Media Without Borders at the hiding place.

Mode of operation

The hiding place is located just behind the Holy Ghost Temple branch of the Assemblies of God in the region’s capital, Bolgatanga.

It is facing the southward fence wall of the official residence of the Upper East Regional Supervising High Court Judge.

Stolen drips kept in the hiding place.

And it is a few steps away from a road lined on either side by the mostly two-storey houses of other judges, the region’s topmost state security chiefs and the Catholic Bishop of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese.

To avoid the public eye, the hospital staff involved in the illicit drug relocation and resale often move the drugs from the hospital at night to the hiding place.

And for the same reason, they always move them from the place under the dark cloak of the pre-dawn hours to the Northern Region for sale.

The stolen batch of medicines is due to expire in 2025.

But before a driver, who normally comes with a pickup from the Northern Region to take the medicines away, leaves Bolgatanga, he secures an invoice from private pharmacies in the region to deceive police at checkpoints that the drugs were lawfully bought from these private pharmacies.

The police are easily outfoxed on the road by the driver because they scarcely care to check to see if there is a notice on the boxes that the materials are not for sale.

Media Without Borders alerts police to effect arrests

There are some of the hospital’s staff members from whom the internal members of the cartel have kept this secret.

Later, it came to the management’s notice, with pictures of some of the stolen drugs from an inside source.

But how to locate the hiding place remained a challenge for the hospital’s management.

Media Without Borders could not approach any of the hospital’s management members at the time with its findings on the grounds of trust.

The structure where the stolen drugs were being kept.

At this time, the cartel had got a hint, too, that a spotlight was closing in on where they were keeping the drugs patients needed urgently at the hospital.

Clients in queue to pay for drugs at the hospital.

They planned to move the drugs from there as immediately as possible to another location, pending their passage to the resale destination.

Because of this, Media Without Borders kept a closer eye on the hiding place and finally revealed the findings to trusted officials of the Ghana Police Service on the morning of Friday, 4 August 2023.

It is boldly written on the boxes by the Ministry of Health that the medications are not for sale.

At about 8:30 pm on Friday, a red-shirted driver at the hospital by the name of Raymond Asoke, who has been part of the syndicate, drove a red car with registration number GE 1532-21 to the yard where the medicines were kept.

When he started packing the boxes into the car, Media Without Borders alerted a team of armed police officers already standing by.

The law enforcers arrived in no time on a police pickup and halted on the edge of the fenceless, weedy yard.

The car captured by Media Without Borders as the driver was loading the boxes of stolen medicines to relocate them pending transportation to the Northern Region for resale.

On seeing them, the driver quickly dropped a box he was carrying towards the car and began to move away from the yard on his feet at a hurried pace.

The officers, numbering about seven, stormed into the yard in scattered directions, and scurried after him as they shouted for him not to move further.

He was outpaced, captured, handcuffed and interrogations began.

Hospital’s administrator says drug thieving happening for the past two years

During preliminary interrogations at the scene, the driver disclosed that the boxes contained medicines and that Fasilat Raheem, the hospital’s storekeeper whom he repeatedly referred to as Hajia, sent him to convey the drugs from the location.

He said the red car belonged to the same storekeeper.

And just moments after saying so, he got a phone call from the storekeeper.

Placed on a loudspeaker, the storekeeper was heard questioning the reasons for his delay at the location.

The thefts have hurt thousands of patients as well as the state over the years.

The driver had loaded twelve boxes inside the car before the police arrived. The police went into the building and brought out twenty-two more boxes.

Shortly after the retrieval had been completed, the hospital’s administrator, Samuel Atuba, came to the scene from behind the interrogating police officers.

The Outpatient Department (OPD) of the regional hospital.

After introducing himself, he told the officers that the stealing had been happening “for the past two years” at the hospital.

He said although the management later saw pictures of some drugs rumoured to have been stolen from the hospital, it could not locate the hiding place, and had no idea how to “catch them red-handed”.

“Raymond, you?” said the administrator, almost in tears as he pointed his forefinger in total shock at the driver.

He paused, looking into the driver’s eyes. “Raymond,” he called his name again.

The driver eyeballed his boss without a blink. He did so in silence— with a look of guilt and in handcuffs at the scene.

Raymond Asoke’s arrest at the scene on Friday, 4 August 2023.

It was not clear how the arrest came to the administrator’s notice.

The extremely loud barking noise from the dogs in the neighbourhood, alarmed by the strange sight and raid, had drawn public attention to the scene.

One of the individuals attracted to the scene may have identified the handcuffed driver as one of the hospital’s employees and brought the incident directly or indirectly to the administrator’s attention by phone.

Premises of the drug theft hiding place.

Afterwards, the driver led the police to the storekeeper’s house.

She, too, was arrested there and taken together with the driver and the stolen drugs to the Divisional Police Headquarters.

Another key suspect and wife of an administrator of a Ghana Health Service (GHS) regional directorate, Bridget Banoeyelle, was arrested early on Saturday, 5 August 2023. She works at the regional hospital’s pharmacy.

The suspects were brought here after the arrests.

The three suspects are still in police custody pending criminal court trial.

More people are expected to be arrested in connection with the thefts.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org

84 COMMENTS

    • Sad to hear this is coming from my country side. We know our mothers to be women of virtue and God fearing but not to be criminals and cruelest to this extend.
      Imagine the number of patients who might have lost their lives from the hospital due to the wickedness of such disgranted cruelest people in our mids!
      They should spend the rest of their lives in jail. They don’t deserve to leave in the society. Bolga deserve better

  1. May God bless you for your good work. More grease at the elbow. more rot to be exposed sir.anedotally, some doctors are referring patient to their pravite facilities in the name of treating them and extorting

  2. This is shear wickedness. While others are working hard for patients some are taking advantage of loopholes and milking the state. They should be dealt with according to the laws of the country.
    No need for forgiveness

    Patients are made to buy drugs most of the time not knowing Storekeeper and others and rather enjoying.

  3. How can health insurance work ? Ghana, everyone is looking to outsmart the other. The poor innocent keep suffering and the few are eating, drinking and driving around. Our children think we are hardworking little will they know that we are thieves. It is well.

  4. You should probably launch another investigation in the Bongo District Hospital. The latest demonstration by United Brothers – a youth group also points to some rots going on there.

  5. Hmm! When will Ghana ever develop with this attitude everywhere? God, have mercy!
    I hope politicians will not indulge and meddle in this issue too.

  6. Well done MWB.
    Abba!!!! Those persons could be termed as health witches and wizards if it is proven true. Because people’s lives could be forfeited through this act of them.

  7. This is happening everywhere, the investigation should be extended to all the district/ municipal hospitals in the region and worse things will be uncovered. Well-done to the team

    • Good job done MWB for your undercover investigation leading to the arrest of these criminals, thieves, killers and wicked folks likes for their bad deeds.
      May God punish them for the lost of innocent souls resulting from shortage of drugs and medicines caused by their wicked acts. Bongo District Hospital in mind.
      More investigation should be extended to other public health facilities

  8. God bless you for the good job. This is what they do and flourish in wealth but will deceive the youth to believing them their riches is from hard work. Why should a fellow man be so wicked towards his kind like this?

  9. Well done Media Without Borders, God bless your efforts in uncovering this and many more rots in the system.
    My humble plea is kindly follow this matter to it’s logical conclusion and update us periodically if not money and political bigwigs will end this matter in the next few days

    • Like seriously, medicines in your custody for the sick and have the heart to steal and sell for money and allow your patients to die?

  10. I’m very glad reading this story it tells me that people are interested in the wellbeing of people living in the upper east region but I will plead that same investigation commence in all district hospital for us to help innocent souls from dying thank you

  11. What a shame on these criminals! No doubt the hospital is always having shortage of drugs and low revenue. So after all, the enemy of progress is always within.

  12. Bravo for good work accomplished but there’s more to it. I personally encountered the inhumane treatment in the hospital especially at the dispensary, they are so annoying , sometimes l feel slapping someone there but only succeeded insulting them. They will keep you waiting only to tell you go and buy the drug somewhere.
    Please continue to unearth the rot particularly at the laboratory.
    God bless you and provide with the financial support to do your work.

  13. Great job media without borders,let the law deal with,but there are some unanswered questions.
    1.Does the hospital have security officers?
    2.If Yes,who is assigned to the stores?
    3.If No,why is that a sensitive place like the stores doesn’t have security officer?
    4.Which private Pharmacy gives the invoice as purchased drugs as stated in the story.
    5.Who in Northern region receives these stolen drugs?
    #WEMUSTGETTOTHEBOTTOMOFTHISCASES!

  14. Bravo MWB for an excellent job done. More revelations will come out in the coming days. How on earth can people be so cruel towards the system? They have to vomit every pesewa from their criminality if they are found guilty. Once again God bless the team from MWB.

  15. Thank God, these people has been apprehended just last week I spent more than 4,000 Ghana cedis for the three weeks my mom stayed at the hospital, on this same antibiotics for her treatment in the name of it’s not being in the hospital

  16. Congratulations MWB, for a great job done. Need to follow through to ensure that the suspects are prosecuted and dealt with according to the law

  17. Many life’s were losing because of drugs shortage in the hospital,some can not even afford to buy drugs,just to hear that the drugs is been stolen, oh God of mercy, forgive us for our since but these people should not be forgiven, they have pay everything from the first day and need be jail life in prison for the sin they been coursing for the unaffordable people to lose their lifes in the hospital. we are pleading the jury not to waist time on them😠😠😠

  18. People are so wicked, consider patients that lost their lifes because of this wicked act. They should be prosecuted. Good workdone by MWB. God bless you all. Keep the good work on.

  19. Everyday for thief , one day for master . The blood of innocent souls get the justice they deserve 🙏🙏🙏

  20. These criminals milk the country so dry with this diabolical behaviour, and then unashamedly go public to join the vile propagandists to condemn government of being insensitive to the plight of the poor and derived citizens of the Upper East Region…fire burn them all into ashes.

  21. MWB should still make it a point and do us a favour by making sure these criminals are not smuggled out of court/jail by their politicians.

  22. These people should be tagged as murderers and dealt with accordingly.Only God knows how many people lost their lives through this act.Bravo MWB

  23. What is the hospital security doing and not discovering all this stealing of drugs what are their mission there as security and all this is happening there without them noticing this stealing always management should look into the hospital security for almost two years stealing have been going on the hospital the security apparatus should be overhalled and 🔥 fired so a face can take

  24. What is the hospital security doing and not discovering all this stealing of drugs what are their mission there as security and all this is happening there without them noticing this stealing always management should look into the hospital security for almost two years stealing have been going on the hospital the security apparatus should be overhalled and 🔥 fired to enable new face can take place for proper security network to this nonsense of Staff of the hospital stealing especially those in store’s

  25. May God punish anyone who would be involved in setting these criminals free. Countless number of people have died due to drug shortages not knowing it was a woman who has been causing this. May she suffer for this.

  26. I will first of applaud Media Without Border for a good work done and the hard working police in the Municipality..The Souls of both living and departed one’s,the poor,rouse against these Hospital staffs.People end up blaming government for insufficient supply of drugs not knowing that drugs that has been dispatched from Accra by GHS is diverted for selfish reasons. If Ghana laws are really working, they should prove it to us base on this case to serve as a deterrent to all.The security of BRH is weak. They only know how to prevent people visiting their patients/love ones.

  27. This is an awesome uncover work done. I think the journalists behind this undercover work deserve a great reward. They should be awesomely awarded. I hope the big politicians will not jump in to waste the efforts of these brilliant and hardworking uncover journalist by maneuvering their out to freeing these criminals invovled. I have personally witnessed instances where patients had to go pharmacies outside the hospital buy common drugs which under normal circumstances should be available at the hospital.

  28. Shame on this so called Hajia as stated in this reportage.

    No more role modeling in society today.

    Well done to MEDIA WITHOUT BORDERS team for this great uncover work done. You have saved a lot of souls.

  29. Good job, MWB! The problem of this country is that when big names are arrested, they find a way to escape punishment. We hope these people get to be punished by the law.

  30. comment is awaiting moderation
    Good job done MWB for your undercover investigation leading to the arrest of these criminals, thieves, killers and wicked folks likes for their bad deeds.
    May God punish them for the lost of innocent souls resulting from shortage of drugs and medicines caused by their wicked acts. Bongo District Hospital in mind.
    More investigation should be extended to other public health facilities

    Reply

  31. May God blessed your hard work and kudos to all the team of MBB.More undercovers from your outfit in the region most especially bolga municipal.

  32. They should be killed immediately. I see no reason why a well meaning Ghanaian in the name of being a lawyer will try to defend an undefendable act. If those who were caught in similar acts were hanged it would have served as a deterrent

  33. It is really sad to hear this, I have always seen myself in the Bolgatanga regional hospital where patients are giving prescription for medicine at the OPD and all sometimes they do tell them we don’t have this medicines go to this pharmacy and buy. I have encountered this severally even lab test.
    Patients do lye down helpless at the various wards of the Bolgatanga regional hospital, yet medicines giving by the government to his people are not giving to them but sold out and make money. The question is where do those monies go to? Huh! So strange, this same people will say the government is doing nothing meanwhile we are the enemies to our own fresh. This is a behavior across all the regional hospitals in the country.
    Ghana and innocent Ghanaian are bleeding

  34. Excellent investigative work by MBW. May the good Lord bless you for this vital revelation. The perpetrators should be punished severely for exhibiting this heartless act.

  35. Then in a few months, they will start buying cars and building mansions and people won’t understand. I know very soon we will attend meetings on this matter soon.

  36. Glory to God 🙏🙏🙏 let them pay for the poor lives they took away from their family I’m sorry to say this but the careless nurses and doctors are next as for the good ones God will strengthen and protect them

  37. Happy to know many citizens appreciate the work of MWB. Ghanaians hate crime but few are committed to the fight: The fight against corruption is left in the hands of a few daring ones who put their lives on the line. Many are calling on MBW to extend the investigation to other parts of the region which is fine but it’s important to know the job is not only risky but expensive to carry out.
    Kudos to MWB

  38. This is just a tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more of these across the country, District hospitals, Health centers, poly clinics and even chips compound.

  39. Aawoh meaning this beautiful hospital and the region as a whole not moving forward is as a result of this people. The law must deal with them.
    Good work done MWB

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