When you are summoned by His Majesty, Ghanaian King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, courtesy demands that you attend as quickly as you can. But how could London banker Mark Frank Arthur, second most senior official of Ghana International Bank, have known that the summons, via the king’s wife, would lead to his dismissal from the bank – and, he now fears, to his becoming unemployable in the financial sector?
In August 2016 when Mark Arthur was called to “attend” His Majesty, Ghana’s King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, he was the second most senior officer in Ghana International Bank PLC. He had first started work at the bank in 1988 and had risen through the ranks since then to become an executive director of the bank as well as a member of its board of directors. And, at least until his visit to the king that morning, he had an “unblemished disciplinary and performance record.”
Arthur, who has dual Ghanaian and UK citizenship, arrived at the king’s residence at Henley, outside London, on the morning of 8 August 2016, to find the king alone, and without his usual retinue. The king produced a bag containing USD 200,000 and almost GBP 200,000 in bank notes.
Arthur would later say that the king told him he wanted the cash deposited into his account at Ghana International Bank, and from there, USD 200,000 was to be transferred to his account with a different bank in Jersey.
Arthur said he asked permission to “address some questions” to the King, who told him that the cash had come from banks in Ghana. Arthur then explained to the King that it was not necessary to withdraw such large amounts in cash from banks, and offered to help him transfer money electronically in future – something that seemed a novel idea to the King.
The king’s request posed several problems for Arthur. First, it was a great deal of money for Arthur to be carrying round London on his own. Also, by virtue of his position, the King was classified as a “politically exposed person” under UK money laundering laws. This meant Arthur was duty-bound to “exercise enhanced due diligence and monitoring” in respect of his accounts. There were other difficulties too: Arthur did not ask whether the king had complied with Ghana’s domestic law in taking this amount of cash out of the country. Even more significant for the future of Arthur’s job, Ghana Bank’s insurance policy on cash was for a maximum of GBP 250 000 and stipulated that such cash had to be carried in an armoured vehicle.
What did Arthur do? He took the holdall with the money from the king, and drove in his own car with it from the king’s residence into London. He parked his car near his home and then took a cab to work. Once at the bank he gave the bag to cashiers to count under the supervision of another senior bank official. By mid-afternoon the cash was in the king’s account and the transfer he requested was made to the Jersey bank.
During the afternoon, Arthur had a meeting with a senior colleague and told him what had happened. Later, he wrote an email putting everything on record. Next morning the colleague recommended to another official that a “suspicious transaction report” be filed.
Two months later, Arthur was suspended on full pay while an investigation was held. This was followed by a disciplinary hearing and soon afterwards he was dismissed for gross misconduct and gross negligence.
An appeal to the Employment Tribunal followed, which Arthur lost. Then he asked the Employment Appeal Tribunal to reconsider the matter, and it is the findings made by Judge David Richardson who say on the appeal that have just been handed down.
Judge Richardson noted Arthur's concerns: “it will be difficult or impossible for (him) to work in finance again unless (the appeal) is resolved in his favour”. However, he stressed that the appeal tribunal's task was to ensure that the initial tribunal had correctly applied the law, rather than re-investigating the facts.
The initial tribunal had found against Arthur in relation to what happened before he returned to the bank and had the money put into the king’s account. As the internal appeal finding had put it: “the damage was done when (Arthur) took the holdall”. In relation to what had happened next, after arrival at the bank, there was a dispute about whether other bank officials had initially appeared to condone Arthur’s handling of the matter and Arthur had been given the benefit of the doubt on this question.
Judge Davidson quoted the initial tribunal saying that it was “possible to have some sympathy” with Arthur’s position, “given the King’s status”. “However, there is no escaping … that (Arthur) knew that he should not accept the money when he did,” according to that tribunal.
Arthur himself said he was in a dilemma. He knew that “what the King was asking him to do was something that he should not do, but because of the King’s status he felt unable to challenge him over it.”
The initial tribunal also said it could “understand” that the decision to dismiss him seemed harsh to Arthur as he had effectively lost his career, whereas his bank colleague who, according to Arthur, had initially condoned what happened, had escaped “without challenge”.
Judge Richardson further quoted the initial tribunal as saying that while Arthur faced a very significant diplomatic challenge, he had to ensure that UK law was enforced. He should not have taken the holdall without a proper check on where the money had come from and whether it was in the UK legally. He should also never have taken the holdall and driven it to London without adequately considering whether the cash was insured once he took charge of it. He could have ordered an armoured vehicle instead of taking the money himself, for example.
The tribunal had also made much of the fact that Arthur was not “a shop floor worker”. He was the second most senior employee of the bank with many years’ experience and it was his duty to obey the regulations. He would have known the money laundering regulations and had the standing to explain the position to the king.
Having surveyed the findings, Judge Richardson said that the initial tribunal had made no legal mistake. Plainly, it had found that Arthur was in breach of contract because of what happened at the King’s home outside London. “I see no error of law in that approach,” Judge Richardson concluded, dismissing the appeal.
Arthur’s dismissal and the story behind it, made headlines in London and in Ghana, particularly since there was an initial suggestion that the bank suspected the king of money-laundering, something the bank strongly denied in a subsequent statement.