Anansi's Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World (Hardcover)
The astounding, never-before-told story of how an audacious Ghanaian con artist pulled off one of the 20th century’s longest-running and most spectacular frauds.
When Ghana won its independence from Britain in 1957, it instantly became a target for home-grown opportunists and rapacious Western interests determined to snatch any assets that colonialism hadn’t already stripped. A CIA-funded military junta ousted the new nation’s inspiring president, Kwame Nkrumah, then falsely accused him of hiding the country’s gold overseas.
Into this big lie stepped one of history’s most charismatic scammers, a con man to rival the trickster god Anansi. Born into poverty in Ghana and trained in the United States, John Ackah Blay-Miezah declared himself custodian of an alleged Nkrumah trust fund worth billions. You, too, could claim a piece--if only you would “invest” in Blay-Miezah’s fictitious efforts to release the equally fictitious fund. Over the 1970s and ‘80s, he and his accomplices—including Ghanaian state officials and Nixon’s former attorney general--scammed hundreds of millions of dollars out of thousands of believers. Blay-Miezah lived in luxury, deceiving Philadelphia lawyers, London financiers, and Seoul businessmen alike, all while eluding his FBI pursuers. American prosecutors called his scam “one of the most fascinating--and lucrative--in modern history.”
In Anansi’s Gold, Yepoka Yeebo chases Blay-Miezah’s ever-wilder trail and discovers, at long last, what really happened to Ghana’s missing wealth. She unfolds a riveting account of Cold War entanglements, international finance, and postcolonial betrayal, revealing how what we call “history” writes itself into being, one lie at a time.
About the Author
Yepoka Yeebo is a British-Ghanaian journalist whose work has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the Guardian, Quartz, PRI's The World and other publications, and she has been interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism and the University of London, she divides her time between London, UK, and Accra, Ghana. Anansi’s Gold is her first book.
“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' ... Even as [Yeebo] 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.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Brilliantly illuminates the stranger-than-fiction career of Ghanaian fraudster John Ackah Blay-Miezah in this thrilling true-crime account." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With Anansi's Gold, Yepoka Yeebo has achieved something remarkable, brilliantly reframing the independence era under Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, while vividly illuminating the tawdriness of its aftermath with an unforgettable tale of corruption. This is African history and storytelling of the first order.” —Howard W. French, author of BORN IN BLACKNESS
“This captivating story of a gifted con artist and his abettors is not only a sheer pleasure to read, but also a profound inquiry into how a lie becomes a legend. Yepoka Yeebo contends with a history shrouded in forgetting and a protagonist who trailed falsehoods in his wake. Her tenacious reporting and relentless pursuit of truth are nothing short of heroic.” —Kirk Wallace Johnson, author of THE FEATHER THIEF
“An unflinching look at history that illuminates both the past and the present. Meticulously and impressively researched, Anansi's Gold is a sharply written and highly engaging account of Blay-Miezah's life, of politics and society in Ghana, and of the rapaciousness and cruelty of colonization and of external involvement in Africa. An essential work by a great writer.” —Peace Adzo Medie, author of HIS ONLY WIFE
“Anansi's Gold is as gripping as a heist movie, with a sparkling cast and a plot that is stranger than fiction. Yepoka Yeebo tells a tale from another time, but in an era of fake news and too-good-to-be-true cryptocurrency scams, it feels thrillingly contemporary.” —Tom Standage, author of A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 6 GLASSES
“This hugely important and riveting book tells a true story of avarice and ambition that is centered on Ghana but reveals a web of lies and deceit on a vast international scale. At the heart of this utterly compelling narrative is a theme of real urgency today: the political and social dangers and the terrible harm caused by the deliberate falsification of the past.” —Susan Williams, author of WHITE MALICE
“This astonishing book reveals not just Ghana's history as you've never read it before, but some of the most important global events of the twentieth century. An impressive feat.” —Afua Hirsch, author of BRIT(ISH)