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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mabey and Johnson/NDC Bribery Scandal - An Eyewitness account

By Lawyer Georgette Dede Djaba, LL.M London
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By Lawyer Georgette Dede Djaba, LL.M London reporting from London, United Kingdom.

6 October 2009, I attended the hearing and sentencing at Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday 7th August 2009 and Friday 25th September 2009 with some colleagues. The case had been referred from the Westminster Magistrates Court on 10 July 2009. I had been extremely astonished by the information coming from some of the Ghanaian radio stations in London, Ghana and especially some from officials, Government spokesmen and by the lackadaisical, uninformed and unprofessional attitude of some members of the NDC - denying taking bribes and requesting receipts for taking bribes. I was surprised that they did not dare to show their faces in court when this matter had been ongoing for over a year. After all, they did have representatives from the Ghana High Commission in the court room. The courtroom was packed on both occasions with seasoned journalists, lawyers, observers, interested parties, anti-corruption crusaders, representatives of NGOs and members of the public who came from various parts of the UK and from Ghana .

We heard the judgement. The Prosecutor, Mr John Hardy QC presented the prosecution opening case succinctly and without any malice. He stated that the company, Mabey and Johnson had pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption in Ghana, Jamaica and breaching UN Sanctions in Iraq . That was clear. The solicitors for Mabey and Johnson, Herbert Smith (a reputable firm in the UK ) were in court. They admitted that the Company had made some changes. 5 of their directors had resigned since the corruption was discovered and when some of them were taken to court. Under the Whistle Blowing Act, one of the directors admitted bribery and corruption and was counter-suing Mabey & Johnson. The current directors of Mabey & Johnson decided to self-report and plea bargain, rather than wait for the Serious Fraud Office to discover their discrepancies as the penalties would have been harsher.

Having pleaded guilty, there was no trial in the sense that no witnesses were called to give evidence, or believe me, we would have insisted that those individuals named come to court and try and deny the paperwork, their bank accounts that were in their own name and the paper trail clearly indicating the kickbacks that they gleefully took which for the benefit of those who were not at court are as follows:

The Prosecution stated that a summary of some of the fantastic kickbacks paid to the Ghanaians were:

1. Dr. Ato Quarshie (former Roads Minister) - £55,000 fifty-five thousand pounds (U.S. $ 87,420.69 - eighty-seven thousand, four hundred and twenty dollars and sixty-nine cents) He proceeded to cash the money straight away and arrangements were made for him to cash it at the bank.

2. Saddique Boniface (then a student at Exeter University in UK received £500 as his educational expenses) - plus £25,500 (twenty-six thousand five hundred pounds sterling) (Equivalent to U.S $ 42,120.52 - forty-two thousand, one hundred and twenty dollars and fifty-two cents)

3. Amadu Seidu (former Deputy Roads Minister) - £10,000 (ten thousand pounds sterling) (U.S. $15,894.53 - fifteen thousand eight hundred and ninety four dollars and fifty-three pence)

4. Edward Lord-Attivor (Chairman Inter-City Transport Corporation) - £10,000 (ten thousand pounds sterling) (U.S. $ 15,894.53 - fifteen thousand, eight hundred and ninety four dollars and fifty-three cents)

5. Dr George Sipah-Yankey (current Health Minister) - £15,000 (fifteen thousand pounds sterling) ( U.S. $ 23,831.56 - twenty three thousand, eight hundred and thirty-one U.S. dollars and fifty-six cents) – Dr. Sipa Yankey is the current Minister of health in the President Mills regime.

We were not told what actually happened to the rest of the nearly half a million pounds sterling that the Ghanaian Government officials of the then NDC Regime took. We were told that the President at the time (and the buck stops with him) was Jeremiah John Rawlings who came into power by way of a military coup d'├ętat in 1981. (That was included in the official court record). And by the way, we should also be reminded that the Vice President at the time of the Bribery and Corruption scandal was our very own current Asomdwehene President John Evans Atta Mills. The total sum of kickbacks that the Ghanaians took was a colossal sum of £470,792.62. These corrupt officials opened accounts to facilitate the bribes in Barclays Bank, Watford, Barclays Bank Rickmansworth, Clydesdale Bank, offshore accounts in Guernsey, Channel Islands , etc. The court stressed that they were not “commissions”, they were actual bribes. The Company admitted they were bribes. The officials demanded and accepted between 10% and 15% of the contract valued. Mabey and Johnson did not lose any profit, they merely bumped up the contract price to absorb the bribes. That is clear!

Immediately, I strongly felt that the song by Sidney should be played in all the bars, night clubs and radio stations in Ghana "Africa Money, Oga dey chop am Nyafu Nyafu, Oga dey chop am fuga fuga, waa waa, Money dey work, baboon dey chop." and rightfully so. The You-Tube link to Africa Money is:
The Father of all corruption and his cronies have been exposed and believe me it is in black and white. Read all about it. I believe they underestimated Ghanaians, partly because they assume we do not read!!

It is the NDC that has taken the people of Ghana for a ride, preaching a holier than thou anti-corruption message, knowing very well that this case was in the pipe-line during the last general election. There are other cases pending. One of the journalists posed the question: Why did Biwater pay for the private school fees at Millfield, Somerset for the children of Jeremiah John Rawlings? The people of Ghana demand answers now!

An agreement had been reached by the parties in the case and Mabey and Johnson agreed to pay fines, reparation and court costs of £350,000. Total of the financial penalties against Mabey and Johnson was £6.6 million.

His Honour Judge Rivlin reiterated that if the Ghana Government was not prepared or ready to receive the reparation money, then it should be given to the Serious Fraud Office UK and perhaps be designated for Charity. Thinking quickly on my feet, I informed Mr Martin Quansah, prior to the end of the hearing, that it would be in his own interest to take instructions and inform the judge and the Serious Fraud Office that he in the court room (sitting quietly at the back), as a representative of the Ghana High Commission (he described himself as the Acting High Commissioner) and was ready, willing and able to accept the funds on behalf of his Government. He made some phone calls, [I am assuming to the President of Ghana] and came back and confirmed during a meeting which I had initiated between the Serious Fraud Office legal representatives, Herbert Smith, Solicitors of Mabey and Johnson. They thanked me and I further reiterated that the matter should be communicated to the judge to ensure that he included it in his judgement.

We were informed that the Serious Fraud Office was dealing with President Atta Mills' appointed representative, a Dr. Dodoo. So that was a fait accompli. It was non-partisan and the advice was free.

It is clear by the Company, Mabey and Johnson admitting the serious offences of bribery and corruption overseas, based on incriminating evidence that this is not a matter to be taken lightly or swept under the carpet. We call for an Independent Special Prosecutor to begin the investigation of the corrupt Ghanaians named in the judgement.

It is now up to all Ghanaians in Ghana and across the Diaspora to decide what happens to the reparation money. Should it go to a designated charity and be monitored? Or should it go towards, e.g. a health, say a medical centre in the UK for Ghanaians. Why do I suggest this? At the time of going to the press, there were at least 20 deceased Ghanaians in mortuaries in the UK . Ghanaians living abroad and dual citizens are working so hard and often in multiple jobs, some manual jobs in order to send money home. Some are neglecting their health and some are unable to articulate their health concerns in a coherent language to the medics. Others just do not have access to an NHS Doctor. It is essential that these issues are addressed. The Ghana High Commission in the UK often complains that it does not have any money to solve the multiple problems that its nationals face in the UK . Knife crime and Ghanaian on Ghanaian murders are on the increase.

Please let us have a town meeting to discuss what happens to this money. Alternatively, it could be sent to Ghana and used towards scholarships or a worthwhile education, health or anti-corruption crusade. The individuals named should resign now or be sacked immediately. We say zero tolerance to corruption!

I rest my case.

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