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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bribe Scandal Hits Castle, but Rawlings is silent

By Daily Guide - Daily Guide

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Dr George Sipa-Yankey and Dr Kwame Pepra
These are the faces of some of the politicians who have hijacked Ghana's development by stealing money meant for everything in the country.
one of the ways to success is by trying - By: Emmanuel Mmadubueze
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The moral high ground of former President Jerry John Rawlings and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) came crumbling yesterday when the Southwark Crown Court in London, UK, ruled that gurus in the government received bribes from the British construction company, Mabey & Johnson, in the 1980s and 1990s.

While some officials received as much as £55,000 pounds, others got amounts ranging from £500, through £15000 to £23,000 pounds sterling.

Officials of the Ghana High Commission in London were at the court when the ruling was being read.

Involved in the bribery scandal which sent government officers and President John Evans Atta Mills reeling in embarrassment are two ministers in the current government, a High Commissioner to Nigeria and a board chairman.

Also included is a former minister in the Kufuor government who worked at the Ministry of Finance at the time of the bribing.

Kingpins of the government who were mentioned as having received bribes from the British firm are Dr George Sipa Yankey, Minister of Health; Kwame Peprah, former Minister of Finance under the Rawlings regime and now Board Chairman of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT); and Dr Ato Quarshie, Minister of Roads and Highways under Rawlings.

Incidentally, Dr Yankey and Mr Peprah were convicted in the Quality Grain scandal, in which over $20million was paid to an American lady for the cultivation of rice at Aveyime in the Volta region.

Dr Ato Quarshie, who lived mostly in the UK when the NPP was in power, is said to have taken a cheque for £55,000 in 1995 whilst Health Minister Dr Sipa Yankey reportedly received a total of £10,500, lawyers for Mabey & Johnson said in court.

Other persons were Amadu Seidu, a Minister of State at the Castle, who received £5,000; Edward Attipoe received £10,000; and Alhaji Saddique Boniface, formerly of the Ministry of Finance allegedly collected £500 for school fees.

Alhaji Amadu, MP for Yapei/Kusawgu, was a deputy Minister of Road and Highways at the time.

When DAILY GUIDE tried to reach him on phone yesterday, he was said to be visiting a relative at the 37 Military Hospital and therefore could not talk.

Prosecutors from the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom established that government officials and party gurus of the NDC received a total of £470,792.60 for the award of £26 million worth of contracts to Mabey & Johnson Company.

These details were yesterday revealed by the prosecution team in the trial of Mabey & Johnson for bribery and corruption in Southwark Crown Court, London.

According to the lead prosecution, QC John Hardy, the various sums were paid to the said party gurus and government officials, purely to get contracts in return.

He said the Serious Fraud Office has got evidence that the NDC gurus opened bank accounts in various places in the UK and the sums of money were then transferred by Mabey & Johnson into the accounts.

According to the prosecution, Mabey & Johnson started greasing the palms of state officials through one Kwame Ofori also known as Danny Ofori-Atta of EGLE Party, who acted as the company's agent and an intermediary between them and the Ghana government as far back as 1985.

The said Kwame Ofori used his links with the then government to influence the award of contracts in favour of Mabey & Johnson.

When the political influence of Kwame Ofori waned, Baba Kamara, a powerful person in the then government who was a close confidant of the wife of the president, Mrs Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, according to the prosecution, became the new agent for Mabey & Johnson.

Baba Kamara, High Commissioner designate to Nigeria and a former deputy National Treasurer of the NDC, introduced the then chairman of the NDC Finance Committee and Finance Minister of Ghana, Kwame Peprah, to Mabey & Johnson to continue with “business as usual”.

Between 1994 and 1999, a Ghana Development Fund was established by Mabey & Johnson with some seed money.

This fund, according to proceedings, was used to finance the NDC, while some of the money went into payment of bribes to the government officials.

The company has been fined and ordered to pay a reparation of £658,000 to the Ghana government.

Not only were the bribes overt, so too was the means of collection on the part of the Ghanaian ministers and officials, most of whom had UK bank accounts. Some, indeed, visited the UK in order to collect their payments in sterling.

119. During the 1990s M&J entered into three principal contracts with the Ghanaian Ministry of Roads and Highways (“MRH”) for the provision of bridges: Priority Bridge Programme Number 1, worth £14.5 million, was agreed in 1994; Priority Bridge Programme Number 2, worth around £8 million, was agreed in 1996; and the Feeder Roads Project, worth £3.5 million, was agreed in 1998.

120. Throughout the relevant period, and until the general election in 2000, the NDC formed the Government of Ghana and many of the GDF payments were directed to its members. Thus the then Minister at the MRH, Dr. Ato Quarshie, received a cheque when he visited London in July 1995 in the sum of £55,000 for “contract consultancy”.

The cheque was drawn on M&J's Clydesdale Bank account at the Victoria branch in Buckingham Palace Road, and signed by Director A, and another M&J director at that time. Director A also faxed the bank instructions to enable Dr. Quarshie to cash the cheque.

121. The payment to Dr. Quarshie and the following payments are but examples of a wider-ranging series of bribes to various ministers and officials, which will be set out in a schedule. Even relatively junior officials were the willing recipients of bribes.

In 1996 Saddique Boniface was the ECGD desk officer in the Ministry of Finance (he was recently until the change of government a highly placed politician within the Ghanaian administration).

He had a bank account at the National Westminster Bank in Rickmansworth. On 29 February 1996 Saddique Boniface received a transfer of £10,000 from M&J to an account at Barclays Bank Plc in Watford.

On 29 October 1996 the same account received a transfer of £13,970 from M&J.

On or about 29 October 1996 Amadu Seidu, the Deputy Minister at the MRH, received £5000 in his Woolwich account held in St. Peter Port, Guernsey and Dr. George Yankey the Director of Legal and International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, received £10,000 in his Midland Bank account in Hill Street, London W1.

Edward Lord Attivor, the ex-minister at the MRH, also received £10,000 in his London bank account. This was the same branch of the Clydesdale Bank which was used by M&J.

Authorisation from M&J directors for each of these transfers was requested by Director D.

Amadu Seidu received a further £5,000 on 7 March 1997, the same date on which Saddique Boniface received a further £2,500.

The latter two transfers were authorised by Director B.

122. Mr. Boniface was a student at Exeter University, where, on or about 26 March 1998, he received a cheque from M&J in the sum of £500. Although this is a relatively small sum it is indicative of the nature of the corruption M&J was then practising: it is a payment which could have no conceivable legitimate commercial purpose.

From Ernest Pepra Antwi, London
Source: Daily Guide - Daily Guide

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