In GNPC Drill Ship Sold To Pay Judgment Debt & Missing Files
The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, has pointed accusing fingers at Albert Kan-Dapaah, former Energy Minister in the John Agyekum Kufuor administration under whose tenure, a Drill Ship nicknamed “Discoverer 511” belonging to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), was sold to pay off a colossal Judgment Debt, owed a French company, Societe Generale, owners of SG-SSB Ghana Ltd.
There is confusion over the actual amount paid to Societe Generale.
Files on the transaction have gone missing from GNPC, Bank of Ghana (BoG), the Attorney-General’s Department and Ministry of Justice. Indeed, some fear the documents have been shredded to conceal something sinister.
Also of special interest is the role played by Nana Akufo-Addo. As Attorney General and Minister of Justice, he issued a strict instruction to GNPC officials to bring him all the files on a law suit, slapped on GNPC. He subsequently sacked lawyers defending GNPC in a UK court, and showed neglegence in providing legal representation, leaving Ghana to be slapped with a huge judgment debt.
The Herald sometime last year, started probing into the huge Judgment Debt, paid Societe Generale by the Kufuor administration. At a point in this paper’s investigations, an amount of US$47 million was identified as the amount paid to the French company, who now owns the Social Security Bank (SSB).
“The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum wishes to state categorically that this deal took place on the 17th July, 2001 during the administration of the New Patriotic Party”, said Edward Bawa, Head of Communications at the Energy Ministry in a press statement released yesterday and copied The Herald.
The Herald’s independent findings are that Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, was Energy Minister from 2001 till 2003, when a Cabinet reshuffle by President Kufuor sent him to the Ministry of Communications and Technology. He was also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Afigya Sekyere West Constituency in the Ashanti Region. His last major position in Parliament was Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
On the Societe Generale judgment debt, The Herald discovered that Societe Generale had sued GNPC, demanding a colossal amount of US$20 million dollars, but later changed its position and wanted US$12 million.
However, Albert Kan-Dapaah, the then Minister of Energy at an August 2001 press conference, announced that US$47 million was rather paid for a wrongful decision taken by Tsatsu Tsikata.
The Energy Ministry’s press statement said, the Ministry has noted with great concern confusion created as a result of a front page publication of the “Ghanaian Times” newspaper dated September 12, 2013 and captioned: “GNPC SHIP SOLD … To pay judgment debt”.
The story states inter alia that “the Drill Ship belonging to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has been sold without the knowledge of the corporation.”
The story continues “the Discoverer 511 (Drill Ship) was sold at $24 million by the Ministry of Energy, to defray a judgment debt of $19.5 million to Societe Generale, as ordered by a high court in London.”
The reportage the statement said, “has generated some level of confusion in the media as to the period this alleged transaction occurred, how much was involved and who authorized it. The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum wishes to state categorically that this deal took place on July 17, 2001 during the administration of the New Patriotic Party”.
“As to questions like: what precipitated the case in the UK court; how much money was realized from the sale of the drill ship, Discoverer 511 and when was it sold are subject of investigation by the Commission of Inquiry into Payment from Public Funds Arising from Judgment Debts”, the statement .
It said “the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum is currently cooperating with the Commission to unravel the mystery surrounding this transaction and therefore wishes to reassure the general public that it will at all times endeavor to be transparent and accountable to Ghanaians”.
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.
What is even more shocking is the discovery that years later, SG was sold the collapsed Ringway Hotel property, owned by Nana Addo and his siblings at a cost of US$3 million dollars. The site of the mismanaged hotel at Kokomlemle near Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, is now going to house the headquarters of the SG-SSB Bank-Ghana.
Another extremely bizarre thing about the US$47 million judgment debt was that, SG 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 SG.
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, SG, dropping its earlier claim of US$20 million on account of hedging transactions with GNPC to US$12 million.
The Herald was 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 SG to be made available in support of the position of GNPC in the case. SG 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.
This enabled Societe Generale to obtain judgment against GNPC, compelling government to sell a drillship owned by GNPC. Despite the fact that SG had been willing to settle for much less, they took judgment for the full claim of almost US$20 million and got that from the proceeds of the sale of the drillship.
Mr. Tsikata, also at a September 2001 press conference in response to Mr. Kan-Dapaa’s accusation that he caused the US$47 million loss, said the loss was occasioned by lack of legal representation and explained that the instruction to the corporation’s solicitors to stop and hand over the case to the Attorney General, presented SG with the opportunity to make amendments to their case and apply for judgment against GNPC.
The ex-GNPC boss said important applications made to the court by the GNPC’s solicitors were not pursued when the government decided to throw in the towel.
He said, GNPC lawyers had contested the claims of SG since 1999, based on the fact that it was SG that gave “negligent advice” to the corporation to hedge its anticipated production of oil and gas from the Tano Fields.
Mr. Tsikata said, when statements of defense were filed at the London High Court, it gave directives that the parties should exchange documents. The GNPC complied with the directive but SG blacked out sections of what they presented to GNPC, because they claimed they did not have to disclose those passages.
Mr. Tsikata said, an application was consequently made to the court to order SG to disclose them. It was at that stage that the government decided to drop the case, even though, there was a high probability that GNPC could win.
He came to this conclusion because, “before SG brought their claim in the London High Court, they had earlier in 1998 filed a suit in the United States – in the District Court in Houston ¬seeking an order to have the GNPC drill ship, D511, moved to the US and detained by them upon conclusion of its contract in Mexico.
“This suit was brought against the US company that had chartered the drill ship as well as GNPC. The case of SG was thrown out and when they appealed to the Court of Appeal in New Orleans, they were again unsuccessful.
“It emerged in those proceedings that SG had sought legal advice about taking action in Mexico, where the drill ship was operating, or in Panama, where the drill ship was registered, and they realised that they could not succeed in either jurisdiction if they filed a suit,” Mr. Tsikata said.
According to Mr. Tsikata, it was regrettable that Kan-Dapaah, could rely on rejected allegations in the SG case to paint a picture to the public that was far from the truth.
He emphasized that SG dealt with the corporation as a commercial body throughout the transactions and there was no need for governmental interference. This, he said, explained why SG claims were pursued against the corporation and not the government.
The Judgment Debt Commission chaired Justice Yaw Appau is still investigating the case. with many individuals likely to be summed to testify.