Kwame Pianim Cited In US$24m Drillship Sale

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The Herald’s continuous investigation into the US$24 million drillship transaction, has revealed that long before ex-Deputy Minister of Energy, K.T Hammond left the shores of Ghana onboard an expensive flight to Paris and London, the Kufuor Government had already made plans to sell the state marine vessel, Discoverer 511.

Documents, including a handwritten note by the respected politician and economist, Kwame Piamin cited by The Herald show that the decision to allow the case filed by Societe Generale against the Ghana National Petroleum (GNPC) to go through instead of stopping it, was just a cover up to create a desperate situation, to enable the state asset to be sold under a “state of emergency” by the Kufuor regime.

The very influential Kwame Piamin, through his private company, New World Investments Limited, ahead of the sale of the drillship in July 2001, wrote to the then Energy Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, wanting to buy the drillship for US$20 million on behalf of Frontier Drilling of Norway.

Questions are being asked as to the justification of the sale of the drillship? How much was actually paid by Frontier Drilling of Norway, the buyers and where is the cheque they issued to Constant and Constant, the British Law procured by KT Hammond? How much was paid to Societe Generale as an out court settlement? And finally, where is the remaining US$3.5 million?

The involvement of the respected economist also reveals why Nana Akufo-Addo, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Kufuor government did not go to court in the UK to defend GNPC after stopping Bindman and Partners, another UK law, who were representing the GNPC. The Government of
Kufuor had its mind made on the disposal of the ship.

Mr. Kwame Piamin, who once described ex-President Kufuor as corrupt, had written to Mr. Kan-Dapaah, in his capacity as the Ghanaian agent of a company called, Bassoe Offshore Consultancy Limited. It is this same company that eventually bought the Drillship on behalf of Frontier Drilling for over US$24
million.

The Ghanaian Government took part in the transaction without any independent evaluation of the drillship, but rather relied on the evaluation of Bossoe, the agent of the buyers. The suspicion is that deals might have been cut between Bossoe and the Ghanaian officials, who took part in the transaction as Bossoe might have issued the cheque on behalf of the buyers, Frontier Drilling of Norway.

It, therefore, appear untrue that the Kufuor government had to sell the drillship under a desperate situation to quickly defray a Judgment Debt slapped on the country as a result of what it claimed was a fallout from Tsatsu Tsikata’s gambling with GNPC’s assets.

It is not clear yet, when Mr. Kwame Pianim was appointed an agent of the UK-based Bossoe, but indications are that Bossoe took advantage of his unique and influential position as a bigwig in the then ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) to push the deal through with Mr. Kan-Dapaah and K.T Hammond, not ready to consider any other opinion, but the disposal of the marine vessel.

Mr. Kwame Piamin, in his handwritten note to Mr. Kan-Dapaah, informed him of a background information he had had Bassoe Consultant prepare to help him (Kan-Dapaah) arrive at a decision on the rig sale.

“It seems the Norwegian firm mobilized fund for the rig acquisitions. They have bought a few and may lose interest (sic) our rig if we do not move soon. I asked them if they would want to be your agents to sell the rig to others. Their answer was an honest no. The market is thin. And not too many potential buyers are liquid enough. They think US$20 million net proceeds is a good sale. They are ready to come for negotiation” Mr. Kwame Pianim’s letter to Kan-Dapaah said.

What is more interesting is that Bossoe Offshore Consultancy Limited in whose interest Mr. Kwame Pianim was working, long before the coming into office of the Kufuor regime, had on August 19, 2000 written to Mr. Tsikata expressing interest in buying the same Discoverer 511 drillship at a price of US$15 million, but was turned down by the then GNPC boss.

The August 19, 2000 letter which is also in the custody of The Herald was signed by Erland P Bassoe implying that Mr. Kwame Pianim at that time had not been engaged as the Ghanaian agent of Bossoe to negotiate the purchase of the drillship, until the coming into office of the Kufuor government.

Another thing which points to the fact that the Kufuor administration was not pushed to sale the drillship as a result of the claims against GNPC, is a June 1, 2001 letter written by Mr. Kan-Dapaah to President Kufuor.

The then Energy Minister who in his letter talked about sending Mr. KT Hammond to Paris and London to negotiate with the Societe Generale officials on a settlement package, said “the settlement of this debt is quite independent of our intended sale of the D511 rig” meaning the drillship was going to be sold at all cost even without a judgment debt.

Last week, a Deputy Minister of Finance, in the Kufour-led government, vehemently denied any involvement in a team or a Committee, Mr. Kan-Daapah, to help negotiate a debt owed French bank, Societe Generale by the GNPC, as claimed by ex-Energy Minister.

In fact, “I don’t recollect negotiating with anybody from Societe Generale. What I do know for sure is that there was never such Committee for which I was a member”…. “Nobody ever told me to be part of any Committee and I don’t recall such Committee ever met which I was involved myself”, he stressed.

Dr. Gheysika A Agambila, asked that the same questions be directed at Ms. Gloria Akuffo, an ex-Deputy Minister of Justice also in the Kufuor administration, who Mr. Kan-Daapah, had also listed in the two letters, dated May 8 and June 1, 2001 as part of a three-member team of negotiators, led by his deputy K.T Hammond, to work out a settlement package with Societe Generale.

The ex-Deputy Finance Minister’s denial, suggest that Mr. Kan-Dapaah lied to then President Kufuor, to push forward the disposal of the GNPC oil drillship, Discoverer 511, for over US$24 million with the disbursements of the proceeds, shrouded in total mystery.

What is even shocking is that Mr. Kan-Dapaah, in the June 1, 2001 letter to President Kufuor talked about meetings that were held between the TK Hammond Committee negotiating with Nick Mends of Societe Generale, and that the outcome of those meetings had been captured in a report earlier sent to President Kufuor May 22, 2001.

However, it is turning out that there were no such meetings, and if ever there was a report submitted to President Kufuor, it must have been cooked. It is not clear to The Herald whether both Kan-Dapaah and KT Hammond submitted copies of the said report to the Judgment Debt Commission when they appeared before them last Monday.

Dr. Agambila, was responding to the secret memos addressed to then President Kufour by then Minister of Energy in connection with an out of court settlement in the case brought against GNPC by Societe Generale.

Dr. Agambila, in an interview, on an Accra-based radio station, Radio Gold last Tuesday, November 26, gave an indication that he was hearing about the Committee for the first time, he flatly denied having any knowledge of any such negotiations or serving on a Committee that negotiated with officials of Societe Generale.

He emphasized that even though the issues surrounding the drillship took place nearly twelve years ago, he does not recalled being a member of any negotiating committee.

In fact, “I don’t recollect negotiating with anybody from Societe Generale. What I do know for sure is that there was never such a Committee for which I was a member”, he stressed and directed the media to check from Ms. Gloria Akuffo who was also mentioned in the memo as a member.

On the first memo, dated May 8, 2001, Dr. Agambila opined its might have been “an idea botched with the President” (Kufuor).

But, however, when the second memo dated June 1, 2001, also signed by Mr. Kan-Daapah and addressed to President Kufour as the Committee’s report on the negotiation was read to Dr. Agambila, he quickly responded “nobody ever told me to be part of any Committee and I don’t recall such Committee ever met, which I was involved myself”.

According to him, “what I do remember was there were a lot of general discussions around 2001, there were a number of problem with the Government, contractors making claims, people making claims on Ghana Airways, with all these indebtedness, in fact it was general and national indebtedness” Dr. Agambila recalled.

More to come!

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