The twist and turns in the US$24 million sale of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporations (GNPC) drillship Discoverer 511, is getting murkier by the day, with an American by name Nick Mends, declared wanted and being sought after by crack investigators, assisting the Judgment Debt Sole Commissioner, Justice Yaw Apau.
Nick Mends, is said to have taken part in the transaction on behalf of Societe Generale in his capacity as Vice-President of Commodities in the New York Office, and believed to have received the US$19.5 million judgment debt on behalf of his bank.
The US$19.5 million judgment debt, has interestingly turned out to be an out of court settlement package, contrary to the claims of ex-Deputy Minister of Energy, K.T Hammond, this is according to Dr. Amos Ofori Quaah, ex-GNPC boss, on whose watch the drillship was sold, insist he did not see any court judgement, ordering the payment to Societe Generale.
Nick Mends, according to insiders, made trips to Ghana and met some Ghanaian officials, who were very powerful in the Kufuor administration and also took part in the discussions towards settling the huge debt owed his bank.
It is believe that Nick Mends, holds the keys to unlocking the transactions, which will also reveal the actual amount of the money paid to Societe Generale.
Nick Mends, is believed to be in America. It is however, unclear whether he still works with the French-owned bank.
Meanwhile, ex-Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo and Dr. Gheysika Agambila, an ex-Deputy Minister of Finance, are also said to be holding another key to traverse this messy deal, buried under a cloak of Judgement Debt.
Madam Gloria Akuffo and Dr. Agambila, according to impeccable sources close to Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, the then Energy Minister, were part of a specialized committee set up by him to negotiate the settlement together with his Deputy, K.T Hammond.
Last Wednesday, A former Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GNPC, revealed how the Kufuor government used the Ministry of Energy to interfere in the sale of the drill ship belonging to the Corporation.
Dr. Amos Ofori Quaah said, the Corporation did not play any active role in the sale of the ship, even though the ship belonged to it.
He said, as the CEO at the time, he was invited to the Attorney-General’s Office and asked to sign a drafted letter to give the Attorney-General, Power of Attorney for negotiation of the sale of the ship.
He said, the GNPC had no hand in the drafting of the letter, I was only asked to sign the letter to give permission for the negotiation process, between the government of Ghana and the French bank, Societe Generale.
Documents pertaining to the transaction between Societe General and the GNPC, were also provided the Attorney-General.
Dr. Quaah made these revelations, when he appeared before the Judgment Debt Commission at its sitting in Accra on Wednesday to give evidence in
respect of the sale of the ship.
He said, before he became the acting CEO from March 2001 to March 2002, there were problems with the Corporation and hedging of the ship between the Corporation and Societe General had been sealed.
He said, when Societe General took the GNPC to court in London for its indebtedness, the Corporation lawyers were handling the case, but the Attorney-General came in and took over the case.
Dr. Quaah said, that while the case was in court, Societe General obtained injunction from the court and the ship was impounded in Oman, and Mr. Kobina T. Hammond, the then Deputy Minister of Energy, was detailed to go and dispose off the ship.
Dr. Quaah told the Commission that when Mr. Hammond returned from London, he (Dr. Quaah) went to him to find out from him, whether the proceeds from the ship were paid to the GNPC account and he retorted: “You did not send me anywhere, I was sent by the President”.
He said, he wrote to the Ministry of Energy to find out how the proceeds from the ship were disbursed and the response was that the ship was sold for 24 million dollars and 19.5 million dollars used to defray the debt, while one million dollars was used to settle legal fees and 3.5 million dollars paid into the Bank of Ghana (BoG) account.
Dr. Quaah said, apart from that letter he never sighted any other letters on the transactions in respect of the sale of the ship.
“I also never sighted any court ruling from the UK, asking the Government of Ghana to pay any amount to Societe General”, he told the Commission.
Justice Yaw Appau said, the GNPC was established by an Act of Parliament and wanted to find out from Dr. Quaah, whether the Act was amended or repealed?
The Commission wanted to know which sections of the act gave (Dr. Quaah) the mandate to give Power of Attorney to the Attorney-General for the sale of the ship?
Mr. Justice Appau said, “It was only the Board of Directors that could give power of Attorney and not the Chief Executive Officer”.
Dr. Quaah replied, “That was the unusual things the GNPC experienced in 2002”.
He said, because there was no Board of Directors in place, the Ministry of Energy, took over the ruins of the GNPC and the CEO was also taking directives from the Ministry.
Dr. Quaah confirmed that at the time he took over as CEO of GNPC, it was in a bad shape and some of its Maritime assets were disposed off and 11 million dollars was made as net profit.
It is not yet clear, when Messrs Kan-Dapaah, KT Hammond, Nana Akufo-Addo, Gloria Akuffo, Dr. Agambila, Ursula Owusu and many others, who played a role in the sale of the drillship for the settlement of the debt, will be summoned before the Commission to testify.