To many Ghanaians, next week’s lining up of three ex-government officials, who played various roles in the eventual disposal of Discoverer 511 drillship, belonging to Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), holds the key to unlock details of the US$19.5 million Judgment Debt paid to the French Bank, Societe Generale.
But The Herald’s investigations into the controversy suggest that their invitation may not yield any result, the real actors and institutions with a credible account on the justification of the payment, the actual amount paid to Societe Generale and the whereabouts of the US$3.5 million, are based in London and New York, not Ghana.
The personalities include; Judi Kemish presently with British Government Legal Service, formerly with Bindman and Partners, Anthony Burton currently with Muirhead & Burton law firm, formerly with Constant and Constant Law Firm and Nick Mends of the Societe Generale New York Office.
Three institutions which also hold the key to this puzzle include; Norton Rose Law Firm and Barclays Bank plc, Crawley, Sussex and finally, the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Agency (HMRC).
Ex-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GNPC, Tsatsu Tsikata, Former Energy Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah and his Deputy Kwabena Tahir Hammond, who have all been summoned by the Sole Commissioner of the Judgment Debt Commission to speak to the sale of that state property on November 25 and 26, 2013 respectively, do not have the truth to this confusing matrix.
Indeed, there are suggestions that crack investigators of Judgment Debt Commission, should be sent to UK and US to dig out the real truth, by talking to the main actors and institutions so far mentioned to have taken part in this multimillion dollar transaction.
Ms. Judi Kemish
The first point of call is the former counsel for GNPC, Judi Kemish, a British national. Documents available to The Herald show that she gave a good account of herself with regards to the case, but was booted out by the Kufuor government, through the instrumentality of Mr. Kan-Dapaah and the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Ms. Kemish, according to volumes of documents seen by The Herald, in the course of the trial constantly briefed officials of the GNPC about how good their case was, including a counter suit she filed on behalf of GNPC, but the powerful politicians who eventually sold the drillship, were not even interested in meeting her.
A suggestion by Ms. Kemish to travel to Ghana to take witness statements from officials at GNPC was not also entertained by Nana Akufo-Addo, who at the time had demanded for all documents on the case to be sent to his office and all correspondence from the UK-based law firm to be directed to him personally to answer.
Some of the documents reveal her frustrations, while reporting to the twice defeated presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), as he failed to respond to her letters sent him by fax and DHL. Nana Akufo-Addo even refused to pick up her phone calls but instead left Ms. Judi Kemish to the now NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Ablekuma West, Ursula Owusu Akufu, who was then his Special Assistant.
For instance, whiles fighting in the UK Commercial Court rebutting the claims of Societe Generale, Ghana’s Minister of Energy, Kan-Dapaah, was busily negotiating with one Nick Mends from the French Bank, Societe Generale, who travelled from New York to serve notice that his organization was not going to accept anything less than US$14 million, a memo available to this paper, revealed.
One of the many memos from Mr. Kan-Dapaah to President John Agyekum Kufuor, dated June 1, 2001, indicated that there had been a stalemate between a three-member team he had put together comprising, Mr. KT Hammond, Deputy Minister of Justice, Gloria Akufo and Deputy Finance Minister, Mr. Agambila, for an out of court settlement had failed to push the amount being demanded by the Societe Generale.
Mr. Kan-Dapaah, advised President Kufuor that his deputy, KT Hammond be sent immediately to Paris to singlehandedly negotiate with officials Societe Generale, he mysteriously ended up paying a whopping $19.5 million to Societe Generale, US$5.5 million more than earlier demanded by the Societe Generale as deduced from Mr. Kan-Dapaah’s letter to President Kufuor.
Ms. Judi Kemish, who’s role in the GNPC case will be of interest to the Judgment Debt Commission, now works with the British’s Government Legal Services. She is currently serving on Azelle Rodney Inquiry as the solicitor and junior counsel. Prior to this role, Judi had been an accredited mediator and solicitor to the Robert Hamill Inquiry.
The Herald has written to her, but she is yet to reply. But her documents suggest Nana Akufo-Addo did not do any due diligence before kicking her out and opting for a settlement with Societe Generale.
Another person worthy of contact is one Anthony Burton, who according to KT Hammond’s document witnessed the payment of the US$19.5 million to Societe Generale. Anthony works with Simons Muirhead and Burton, a law firm in London.
He is supposed to have witnessed the payment to Societe Generale, whiles working for Constant and Constant, a law firm which was contacted by Mr Hammond to act on behalf of the Government of Ghana.
Mr. Burton, according to The Herald’s investigation is the Chairman of the Board of the Court Theatre and a regular writer and broadcaster on Legal Affairs in UK.
By KT Hammond’s many admissions on radio programmes, Mr. Burton holds the key to how much was paid to Societe Generale from the US$24 million.
He appears to be a signatory to an escrow account created at Barclays Bank plc, Crawley, Sussex in the name of Constant and Constant into which the US$24 million was paid and from where Societe Generale was handsomely settled the supposed US$19.5 million.
The Herald has again written and sent scanned copies of Mr. Hammond’s documents, but he is unfortunately, yet to reply.
Nick Mends of Societe Generale
Nick Mends, a Vice-President in-charge of Commodities in the New York Office, who initially was thought to be an American, would also be of help to the investigations by the Judgment Debt Commission.
He was sent to Ghana by his employers to negotiate with Ghanaian officials including; Kan-Dapaah, KT Hammond, Gloria Akuffo and Gheysika Agambilla. He is a Ghanaian according to Mr. Kan-Dapaah. He was the one who ran into a deadlock during the negotiations in Ghana between May and July 2001, insisting that they were taking nothing less than US$14 million.
Norton Rose, the law firm has an aspect of the sale of the drillship. It was hired by Societe Generale to drag GNPC to court. The firm if contacted, may be able to tell whether it indeed, signed a document on behalf of Societe Generale as part of the out of court settlement.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Agency (HMRC)
Finally, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Agency (HMRC), could also tell how much was actually paid by Societe Generale as tax on the amount it received from the GNPC settlement package. From the UK Government establishment, the Judgment Debt Commission, could ascertain the veracity of Mr. KT Hammond’s claim that he paid US$19.5 million to Societe Generale or the US$14 million as suggested in Mr. Kan-Dapaah’s memo.
More to come!