On $24 Million GNPC Drillship Sale
The Herald’s investigations into the controversial sale of the Discoverer 511 drillship, belonging to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), continue to reveal very interesting findings with the latest being that, two of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor’s Ministers lied to him, ahead of the multimillion dollar transaction.
Documentary evidence from ex-Energy Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, GNPC and its UK-based lawyers, Bindman and Partners revealed government officials minds were made , about selling the drillship, thus not ready to read or respond to several letters sent via fax and DHL, therefore, kept facts on Societe Generale case against GNPC away from President Kufuor.
This comes in the wake of a letter written by Mr. Kan-Dapaah dated June 1, 2001, suggesting that the Kufuor government paid Societe General an amount of 14 million United States Dollars and not 19.5 million United States Dollars, as said by Mr. K.T. Hammond and widely reported.
Additional documents available to The Herald, also suggest that Nana Addo and Mr. Kan-Dapaah, did not make any effort to meet with GNPC’s lawyers to brief them on the status of the case, before opting for an out of court settlement with Societe Generale.
Some of the letters also showed GNPC lawyers attending the UK Court hearings, fighting for the Corporation, while Mr. Kan-Dapaah was in Accra negotiating with the officials of the French Bank. This kept happening until Nana Akufo-Addo eventually terminated the services of Bindman and Partners.
For instance, Mr. Kan-Dapaah in his June 1, 2001 letter sent to President Kufuor said, his colleague Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Nana Akufo-Addo had informed him that GNPC was going to lose the case against Societe Generale, hence the government must hasten to settle the case with the French bank.
Interestingly, however, at the time Mr. Kan-Dapaah and Nana Akufo-Addo were pushing the settlement idea on President Kufuor, the UK-based GNPC lawyers also kept writing to Nana Akufo-Addo informing him that GNPC rather has a winnable case, therefore, ought to be supported in its legal battle to defeat Societe Generale.
Some of the letters from Bindman and Partner sent to Nana Akufo-Addo by fax portrayed the ex-Minister of Justice as not ready to fight the case, implying that he and Mr. Kan-Dapaah had decided on selling the state-owned drillship to settle Societe Generale, therefore, not ready to listen to UK Lawyers.
One Judi Kemish, the lawyer detailed by the Bindman and Partners law firm to handle the case for GNPC, also portrayed Mr. Kan-Dapaah and Nana Akufo-Addo as failing to do proper due diligence on the case, before opting to negotiate with Societe Generale, strangely on the bank’s demand.
From May 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2001, Judi Kemish, kept writing and making phone calls to Nana Akufo-Addo, warning him, but without getting any response from him.
Indeed on May 8, 2001, while Mr. Kan-Dapaah, was in a meeting with an official of Societe Generale, Nick Mends, Vice-President in-charge of Commodities at the New York office attempting a settlement package of US$5 million, Bindman and Partners, were on the same day also exchanging letters with GNPC on the viability of its case having filed a defence and counterclaim against Societe Generale.
In one of such letters written by Judi Kemish to Nana Akufo-Addo, copied Dr. Amos Ofori-Quaah and the then Legal Counsel of GNPC at Tema, the late Mr. G. K Abankwah, she talked about the counterclaim and added that “We are very concerned that we have not received any response to our recent correspondence and should be grateful if you could contact us urgently”.
That letter was dated May11, 2001 and addressed to Nana Addo in his capacity as the Justice Minister.
Interestingly, while GNPC through its in-house lawyer, Mr. Abankwah responded to Judi Kemish, and directed her to speak to the Attorney General, Nana Akufo-Addo, he did not respond to the letters.
Even some of the phone calls were answered by Nana Addo’s unnamed Special Assistant, believed to be Madam Ursula Owusu, now Member of Parliament (MP) for Ablekuma North.
One other letter dated May 8, 2001 from GNPC and signed by Mr. Abankwah to Judi Kemish, revealed she had expressed interest in coming to Ghana to take statements from GNPC witnesses to support the case, but this did not materialized as Nana Akufo-Addo, had terminated their service, without even hearing from the Bindman and Partners.
Before Nana Akufo-Addo developed deliberate cold feet, he had instructed officials of GNPC to submit all files on the case with Societe Generale to his office, with additional instruction to GNPC that Bindman and Partners, must take orders from him directly before going to court. However, anytime Nana Addo was written to, he failed to reply.
The Herald’s documents (see page 1) also show that Bindman and Partners did not refused to represent GNPC in court over non-payment of its legal fees as claimed by Mr. Kan-Dapaah in his June 1, 2001 memo sent to President Kufuor. Rather, Nana Addo, the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, deliberately refused to instruct them to continue the case.
Strangely, however, after sacking Bindman and Partners, Mr. Kan Dapaah’s deputy, K.T. Hammond, who had been sent to Paris and UK to singlehandedly negotiate on behalf of Ghana, amazingly procured the services of a law firm he once worked with,Constant and Constant to handle the case on behalf of GNPC.
Mr. Kan-Dapaah’s June 1, 2001 letter, additionally revealed K.T Hammond as the only person sent to Paris and London, to do further negotiation on behalf of GNPC.
Mr. K.T. Hammond ended up paying off Societe Generale a whooping 19.5 million United States Dollars, although Mr. Kan-Dapaah in his letter to President Kufuor, had talked about Societe Generale refusing to accept nothing less than 14 million United States Dollars.
From the ongoing, an amount of 5.5 million United States Dollars is being sought after, as there is confusion over what was actually paid to Societe Generale.
Meanwhile, anti-corruption crusader, P.C. Appiah Ofori is urging authorities to arrest former Energy Minister, Kan Dapaah and his deputy, K.T. Hammond for their roles in the sale of the drillship belonging to the GNPC.
Mr. Appiah Ofori told Joy FM’s Top Story on Wednesday that the sale of the drillship, Discoverer 511, to settle a judgment debt was illegal, adding that withdrawing money from the account created for the ship without parliamentary approval was also wrong.
With a Power of Attorney, the drillship was sold in 2001 by Mr. K. T. Hammond in London.
Both the former Energy Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah and his deputy, K.T. Hammond have maintained that all the 24 million dollars realized from the sale of the ship was used to settle a judgment debt owed French Bank, Société Générale, legal services and the remaining 3.5 million dollars was returned to government chest.
But the former MP for Asikuma Odoben Brakwa, P.C. Appiah Ofori insisted that state funds could not be disbursed without the prior approval of Parliament, likewise the sale of a government property.
He said, he was a legislator when the ship was sold in 2001 and confirmed that the transaction never passed through Parliament for approval. The anti-corruption crusader wants those behind the transaction to be charged for circumventing the Constitution and acting irresponsibly.
“If Parliament did not give its approval for any of these transactions, then the whole thing was illegal, and therefore those, who did it must not be allowed to get away with their irresponsible act…I don’t care a hoot [whether] it is my father, mother, brother or a friend does anything contrary to national interest,” he asserted.
Since the drillship belongs to the state, he stressed, proceeds from the sale should have been deposited into the consolidated fund.
“If state fund has been disbursed without the prior approval of Parliament then it is an offence.”