..For Judgment Debt Commission Appearance On US$24 million GNPC Drillship Sale
By Larry Dogbey
The Judgement Debt Commission will cut short Nana Akufo-Addo’s prayer-filled holidays in England by recalling him to Accra to answer questions on the 2001 sale of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Drillship, Discoverer 511 for US$24 million.
The ex-presidential candidate, together with his colleagues in the Kufuor administration namely; Albert Kan-Dapaah, K.T. Hammond and many others, were instrumental in the sale of the Discoverer 511 to a Norwegian oil drilling company, Frontier in July 2001 to settle a judgment debt to a French company, Societe Generale.
Managing Director of Societe Generale (SG) Ghana Limited, Mr Gilbert Hie, yesterday told the Judgment Debt Commission that both their offices in Ghana and France have no records of the $19.5 million judgment debt government claimed it paid to the company.
According to KT Hammond, Nana Addo as Attorney-General had given him Power of Attorney to sale the drillship on behalf of the Government of Ghana (GoG).
Nana Addo gave the order in the absence of a GNPC Board of Directors. He is expected to provide answers to why he failed to represent the country in a UK court, after sacking a law firm Bindman and Partners, who were getting Ghana to pay an amount less than US$12 million, instead of the US$19.5 million.
Nana Addo, as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, failed to make representation in a UK court, leading to Societe Generale being awarded a judgment debt, which had slipped from US$20 million to US$12 million, but leaped to US$47 million, according to Mr. Kan-Dapaah, the first Energy Minister in the Kufuor regime at an August 2001 press conference.
Years later after the transaction, the same Societe Generale, came to Ghana, bought the Social Security Bank (SSB), as well as the rundown Ringway Hotel property at Kokomlemle, near Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.
Nana Addo and his siblings sold the plot to the French company for US$3 million dollars. The place will soon house the banks headquarters in Ghana.
Nana Addo, left Accra on Sunday to England to pray and seek the face of God, as to whether or not to contest the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer slot for the third time. He is to be away for three months. But that has to be cut short.
K.T. Hammond, an ex-Deputy Energy Minister, is to be summoned before the Judgment Debt Commission for giving conflicting accounts in various radio interviews, as to how the GNPC Drillship was sold in 2001.
Lawyer for the Commission, Dometi Sokpor, told an Accra-based Radio Station, Joy FM that K. T. Hammond would soon be summoned to answer questions over the transaction.
“Everybody whose presence is needed here to clarify issues that are bothering our mind, we will invite that person…but for now it is KT Hammond who is talking so he would be invited first.” Though it is not clear when the former deputy minister would appear before the commission, Mr. Sokpor affirmed Mr Hammond would “definitely” appear.
KT Hammond, has also indicated his readiness to appears before the Judgment Debt Commission to testify.
The Herald last year published the finding of its investigations, revealing how Nana Addo got SG to be paid the US$47 million judgment debt, in a case filed at the UK against the GNPC during the Kufuor’s presidency.
Prior to the payment of the colossal amount, GNPC under Rawlings presidency was hotly contesting Societe Generale’s claims in a UK court. But strangely, Nana Addo upon assuming office as Minister of Justice abandoned the case, leading to Ghana coughing up the US$47 million to the French company.
Mr. Akufo-Addo, had ordered GNPC to hand over the matter to him as the Attorney-General to handle. He later fired the UK lawyers, Bindman and Partners, who were fighting the case for GNPC, forcing Ghana, to cough US$47 million, to settle the massive judgment debt as a result of no legal representation.
Societe Generale had sued GNPC demanding a US$20 million dollars, but later changed its position and wanted US$12 million instead. However, Albert Kan-Dapaah, the then Minister of Energy at an August 2001 press conference announced that US$47 million was rather paid for Tsatsu Tsikata’s wrongful decision to engage Societe Generale.
The Herald gathered that at the time of sacking the UK lawyers, they were in the middle of settlement negotiations with the France-based bank, dropping its earlier claim of US$20 million on account of hedging transactions with GNPC to US$12 million.
The Herald was also informed that negotiations were still ongoing when Nana Addo terminated the engagement of the UK lawyers, who had advised GNPC that it had a good case.
Again at the time of sacking the lawyers, they had sought orders from the court to obtain certain tape recordings in the possession of Societe Generale to be made available in support of the position of GNPC in the case. Societe Generale was resisting this, knowing the disclosure of the tapes would not be in their favour.
Nana Addo, was made aware of all these facts by GNPC, but surprisingly, acting closely with Kan-Dapaah, they instructed that the lawyers take no further action. The application for disclosure of the tapes was then allowed to elapse and no further steps in defence of the action were taken by Akufo-Addo as Attorney-General.
The ship was sold for $24 million but the whereabouts of $3.5 million balance taken from an escrow account to be deposited in government of Ghana’s coffers still remains a mystery.
Mr K.T. Hammond had said apart from paying $19.5 million dollars of the $24m to Societe Generale in judgment debt, $3.5 million was paid to the Finance Ministry, and $1 million was used in settling other debts, including fees for government’s Counsel.
But officials of the Energy Ministry and GNPC previously told the Judgment Debt Commission that they cannot confirm claim that $3.5m was paid to the Finance Ministry because there was no official documentation covering the transaction. The Commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau on Monday noted that K. T. Hammond’s role in the sale of the drillship was confusing.
Justice Yaw Appau commented: “September 24, 2001 was when new [GNPC] board was appointed, so when it was sold there was no board. So we cannot tell specifically who took the decision to sell, if there were no board in place then it could not have been the board.
“….the former deputy Minister [K.T. Hammond] said on radio that he was directed by president [Kufuor] to go and sell the ship and defray the cost, in another vein he said he was given the power of attorney to sell by the GNPC. If there was no board then who granted the power of attorney to sell?”
But K.T Hammond has again told Joy News he doesn’t recollect saying that President Kufuor gave him the power of attorney. The power was rather given to him by the then Acting Managing Director of GNPC Dr A. Ofori Acquah, he said.
President Kufuor only directed the Energy Ministry to reshape the highly indebted GNPC, he clarified.
He said, he has been informed that in such transactions monies paid to the Finance Ministry would be forwarded to the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, and was sure the whereabouts of the $3.5 million was traceable.
He also declared his readiness to assist the Commission to demystify the mystery.
His boss and former Energy Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, earlier submitted a letter to the Judgment Debt Commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau, expressing his willingness to appear before him to explain the issues.
He told Joy News’ Joseph Oppong Gakpo that “two issues have come up; how was the ship sold and how do you account for the money we got out of the sale? What actually happened to the $24 million? In the letter that I have given to him I have tried to provide answers to some of these things.”
He is however yet to submit the documentation covering the actual transaction, Joy News gathered but is ready to appear when needed.
Communication Consultant at the Energy Ministry, Edward Bawa told Joy News they have finally chanced on a letter from one Kweku Owusu, who was the advisor to the then Minister asking the ministry to pay Aquatic Investments for its involvement in the transaction gave them a clue to the whole deal.
He said, after searching for documents on the transaction, they turned to the handing over notes of Mr Kan-Dapaah to his successor, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, but the transaction was “never mentioned”.
Though document on the sale and purchase agreement was not available, he suspected that the minister managed the transaction, without necessarily following the bureaucracy in the civil service.
The Managing Director of Societe Generale (SG) Ghana Limited, Mr Gilbert Hie said the company came into existence in 2003 and has no idea about the payment made in 2001.
But after receiving the subpoena, he said, the company contacted the bank’s legal department at their headquarters in Paris, France, but they also replied that they cannot see any document on the $19.5 million judgment payment to the company.
Mr Hie explained that by French law, such documents are supposed to be kept for a maximum of 10 years, beyond it, the law does not require them to continue keeping them, and was therefore not surprised the documents could not be found.
However, the lawyer for the Commission, Dometi Sokpor contested the claim, insisting that by practice they should have copies of the documents in their archives.
The Commissioner Justice Appau, sounding frustrated about the development indicated that the Commission seems to hit the snag as far as their investigation is concerned.
But Mr Dometi Sokpor insisted that the Commission would not end there, but would ensure that it gets to the bottom of the case even if it demands that they invite officials of the bank in France to appear before the commission.