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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Corruption under Rawlings in UK court

Former President Rawlings
Former President Rawlings
“No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves...No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top...” This is what President Obama said in his address to parliament when he visited Ghana.

Former President Rawlings has always ceased the slightest opportunity to preach the virtues of instilling probity, accountability, integrity and ethics into Ghanaian politics. He recently did so after the state of the nation address delivered by President Mills and again after President Obama’s speech to parliament last week.

But in a sudden twist of events, the first major British company is to be prosecuted for paying bribes abroad for contracts awarded. A little-known family who became one of the richest in Britain have been accused of making excessive profits, by building what their critics call "bridges to nowhere".

Mabey & Johnson have been charged with corruptly influencing Ghanaian politicians and officials between 1994 and 1999 to gain bridge building contracts in Ghana. They are charged with further corruption offences in other countries namely Jamaica and Iraq.

The history of bribery among NDC officials is legendary. In 2002, the former Managing Director of Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL), Mr. Etienne Arthur Marie Popeler told an Accra Fast Track Court that he gave monies to Dan Abodakpi, the former Minister of Trade and Industry, Sherry Ayittey, Treasurer of the 31st December Women’s Movement and Mr. Emmanuel A. Agbodo, (former Executive Secretary) of the Divesture Implementation Committee (DIC) under the previous NDC Administration to influence the divestiture of GREL. The 51-year old Belgian said he paid $1 million bribe to the 31st December Women’s Movement (31st DWM), an NGO run by Rawlings’ wife, for his French company SIPH to secure GREL. Sherry Ayittey is back under the Mills-administration as Minister for Environment and Science.

Another bribery and corruption scandal hit the Rawlings administration in 1995/96 when CHRAJ conducted investigations into allegations of corruption and illegal acquisition of assets made against four ministers of state and some senior government officials. The case involved Col E.M Osei-Owusu (Retd), a former Minister for Interior; P.V. Obeng, Presidential Staffer, Ibrahim Adam, Minister for Agriculture and two others from the Agriculture Ministry and Adjei Marfo, chief executive officer of a state owned company. The Commission made adverse findings against the three of the officials and exonerated one for lack of evidence. Rather infamously, the government presided over by President Rawlings at the time issued a White Paper contesting the findings made by the Commission.

The prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK comes five years after allegations of foreign bribery by the Reading-based company were revealed.

The firm is expected to appear at Westminster magistrate’s court on Friday in a ground-breaking SFO prosecution, according to sources close to the firm's lawyers.

Mabey & Johnson, a bridge-building company, said it would pay compensation to Jamaica, Iraq and Ghana after admitting it had paid bribes to win contracts in the three countries.

The firm is accused of seeking to corruptly influence politicians and officials in Ghana between 1994 and 1999 to land build-bridging contracts.

There will be a preliminary hearing of these charges at Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday 17 July 2009.

It is to be expected that the names and details of those persons and officials involved will be revealed during the course of this hearing.

Five of the firm's eight directors have already resigned their positions as a result of the UK Government's investigations into a range of alleged corrupt practices by this company, including dealings with Saddam Hussein in Iraq in breach of UN sanctions.

Source: Statesman

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