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Once upon a time when I lived in an apartment in Hendon, North London, a policeman appeared at my backdoor one early morning as I was going through my morning routine to go to work.
When I opened the door, he said: “I’m afraid your car has been done”.
This was British police slang for my car having been broken into, ransacked and stripped.
It took a while for me to work out what the young policeman was saying and get over the shock of a policeman at my door.
He led me ever so gently downstairs to the courtyard and to where my car was parked.
It was not a pretty sight that I faced.
It looked like my car had been in the eye of a hurricane.
The windscreen had been smashed, the glove compartment was opened and the papers strewn on the floor, all the carpeting and mats were stripped and the car boot especially had been thoroughly ransacked.
It turned out that some time during the night, five of the cars we residents of the apartment block had parked in the courtyard had been “done”, to borrow the police slang.
Much later on, I wondered about how the five out of the over 20 cars parked there had been selected for this extreme treatment, but at that moment, I was simply puzzled.
It didn’t look personal; in other words, it didn’t appear like I had upset someone who had decided to trash my car and I simply couldn’t understand what had happened to my car.
The policeman then told me in a very matter of fact way that the thief or thieves had been “obviously looking for money”.
In the boot of my car and under the carpeting and in the glove compartment of my car?
I said that over and over again to myself but I still couldn’t work it out.
Up until that morning, I had never heard that anyone used car boots or glove compartments of cars or the floor under the seats of cars as hiding places for money.
But you learn something new every day and that autumn morning in North London, a young policeman helped me make the discovery of the car as a hiding place for money.
Some people think it is a safer place than in the room in the flat, the policemen tried to explain to me.
In the past few weeks as I have been trying to get my head around the saga of the Office of the Special Prosecutor and my friend Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the incident of the policeman and my ravaged car in London came back to me.
The Special Prosecutor is reported to have filed court papers in which he claimed that when he went to search Cecilia’s homes, he found monies “concealed in among others, wraps, polythene bags, clothing items and 32 envelopes.”
The reports quote the OSP as further saying that the monies were “hidden in obscure locations within the residences and some even labelled and described and were buried and secreted in obscure places”.
I will not dare question the OSP’s handling of this matter, I am not equipped, and what is more, especially since the matter is in court, we shall wait on the due process.
But I am sure I can express my puzzlement at some of the goings-on.
Since the OSP did not exactly serve notice on Cecilia that he was coming to conduct searches in her home, nor announce on the radio that he was on the way to search, nobody can accuse her of trying to hide anything from the OSP or any officers of the state.
Nobody can say she deliberately arranged things so that the OSP would have difficulty finding whatever he wanted during the search.
I wonder what is strange about Cecilia, or me, or anyone “hiding” their own monies in “obscure locations in their homes.”
I thought the whole point of being security conscious was to put your money in so obscure a place that when a thief comes into your home, he would find it difficult to work out where you have hidden the money.
It is supposed to be a never-ending battle to outwit the thieves about where you put your money.
From time immemorial, we had all been urged not to make things easy for thieves by placing in an obvious, easily accessible place, money, jewellery or anything that can be easily taken, if they should break into our homes.
What picture does the OSP think he is painting of Cecilia by saying she had monies in “wraps, polythene bags and envelopes”.
I keep and I know lots of people who keep their monies in wraps, polythene bags and envelopes.
Do we all therefore qualify for the attention of the Special Prosecutor?
Surely, we are all allowed, indeed, expected to bury and secrete our valuables in obscure places so that uninvited interlopers do not get easy access to them?
Why should burying my valuables in obscure places be worth mentioning for any reason?
When you go to take money from the bank, they put it in an envelope for you and I usually keep the bundle in the envelope in my handbag and spend until it is finished.
Every handbag I have is full of torn envelopes with various sums of money.
Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised when I go through envelopes and find enough money.
Sometimes I am not that lucky and I draw blanks.
The other day I found GH¢178 wrapped in a tired envelope in a handbag I had not used for the past five years.
I do not know if in his personal, private dealings, the OSP uses cash or if he is a plastic person and gone completely cashless.
But if he carries and uses cash, I wonder if, when I get into his house, invited or uninvited, I would see, neatly packed on the frontispiece in his house, whatever money he has.
Or maybe he is one of those who put their monies in the boot of their cars or as I have heard said, in the freezer amid the frozen fish and he therefore finds it strange that some of us keep our monies in envelopes and among clothing.
Now that it seems hiding your money in your own house can be used against you, I am going through all my handbags and I shall put whatever monies I find in the drawer in the front room.
This is to ensure that when the Special Prosecutor comes calling, he wouldn’t be irritated that I had secreted my money in obscure places in my home.
By Elizabeth Ohene, a former minister of state in Ghana
This article was first published in the Daily Graphic on Wednesday 27 September 2023