Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ANANSI'S GOLD by Yepoka Yeebo Kirkus Star


The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World

by Yepoka Yeebo

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2023
ISBN: 9781635574739
Publisher: Bloomsbury

For two decades, a Ghanaian con man surfed a wave of lies and luck, living large on multiple continents while swindling “millions upon millions of dollars.”

“This is a story of how lies change history,” writes Ghanaian journalist Yeebo. The lies at the center of her story are those of Dr. John Ackah Blay-Miezah, whose name and title were both lies. He claimed to hold the key to the (nonexistent) Oman Ghana Trust Fund, billions of dollars supposedly spirited out of Ghana by its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and held in Swiss banks, ensnaring investors in a classic fraud. Yeebo makes clear that Blay-Miezah’s lies were founded on other lies—first those of the British colonizers, who “siphoned off over 150 million pounds” that were to have been held in reserve pending independence, and then those of the U.S. and British governments, which helped engineer the 1966 coup that toppled Nkrumah. The racism that underlay these actions also propelled many of Blay-Miezah’s investors, who “saw [him] spinning a tale about darkest Africa, untold wealth, and a corrupt leader….[T]he story—and the man—fit their preconceptions like a dovetail joint.” The great tragedy, writes the author, is that Blay-Miezah’s lies have become one of Ghana’s foundational myths. It’s an incredible story, told with muscular acerbity and populated by secondary characters as compelling as the leading man. There’s the diplomat duo of Shirley Temple Black, U.S. ambassador to Ghana, and Ebenezer Moses Debrah, Ghana’s former ambassador to the U.S.; Gladys Blay-Miezah, Blay-Miezah’s second wife, whose ability to track down her philandering husband earned her the nickname Columbo; and Joe Appiah, who successfully prosecuted Blay-Miezah in Ghanaian court only to see him freed after a brutal coup. Even as she catches readers up in what often reads like a breathless caper, the author takes care to ground them in what matters most: Ghana and its sadly “fragile” history.

Utterly absorbing.