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Journalist Yepoka Yeebo’s Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World tells the story of how audacious Ghanaian con man John Ackah Blay-Miezah pulled off one of the longest-running scams of the 20th century. In the 1970s and ’80s, Blay-Miezah managed to swindle politicians, high-class businessmen, and heads of state with a scam predicated on a tall tale. In 1972, on his deathbed, Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, revealed that he had millions of dollars stowed away in Swiss bank vaults. Blay-Miezah sold himself as a close confidante of the late leader and, over the span of 15 years, conned at least 300 people into investing millions into his efforts to secure the fake funds. In return, he promised they’d be handsomely rewarded.

Through meticulous and shrewd reporting, Yeebo breaks down the many reasons why Blay-Miezah’s claims were too enticing for even the most sophisticated marks to ignore. For one, with his tailored suits and Rolls Royce, he looked the part of a wealthy benefactor who could hobnob with the elite. Yeebo describes in great detail the lengths to which the con man went to keep his high-yield racket going in a pre-internet world. But the author also points out another more sinister reason for Blay-Miezah’s success: the wealthiest were more than willing to pilfer from a recently decolonized Africa with very few questions asked. Anansi’s Gold is an enthralling rags-to-stolen-riches story, a thrilling true-crime caper, and a sharp indictment of a world that allows scammers like Blay-Miezah to thrive. —Shannon Carlin

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