General News of 2014-04-21

Jet saga: Group accuses presidency of conflict of interest

A pressure group insists a U.S.-flagged plane that landed in Tehran and was traced to private mining firm, Engineers & Planners (E&P) – a company affiliated to President John Mahama’s brother, Ibrahim Mahama – ferried top government officials to Iran, and not a business delegation as claimed by the jet’s operators (E&P).

Ghanaians for a Better Government, in a statement, expressed “worry and reservations” about the “dodgy, dark and clandestine” circumstances surrounding the plane’s use.

The group said its major concern is in connection with the “blatant conflict of interest”, in that, the President allowed “government to hire for official functions, a private jet acquired by his brother.”

The landing of the U.S.-flagged Bombadier in Tehran caught the eyes of the international media last week.

According to the New York Times, the plane - held in trust by a small US community bank, the Bank of Utah - landed in Tehran without permission, but a statement issued by E&P clarified that: “The said aircraft transported a group of Ghanaian business executives to Iran and has since returned to Ghana,” adding that: “The said trip was made in conformity with all international aviation laws.”

The E&P statement signed by Executive Director Adi Ayitevie also denied rumours that the jet ferried President Mahama to certain locations.

“We wish to also state that the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama has never been transported by the said aircraft.”

Ghanaians for a Better Government however says the explanation offered by E&P is at variance with information divulged by the Iranian government regarding the calibre of people who used the plane.

“We are calling on government to come clean and clarify the obvious contradiction between an official statement issued by the Iranian government Friday that the plane carried Ghana government officials to Tehran for official meetings with the government of Iran, and a statement subsequently issued by the company of President Mahama’s brother that the plane only carried a group of business people from Ghana,” the group demanded.

The group quoted the New York Times as having said: “Iran’s Foreign Ministry, bombarded with questions over why an American plane was parked at the airport [Tehran], said on Friday that the plane had been used to transport top Ghanaian officials as part of a broader push to expand cooperation between the two countries.”

The statement, jointly signed by David Asante, Spokesperson; and members John Hall and Charles Nii Teiko Tagoe, said: “Indeed, according to Iranian news agencies, the Spokeswoman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Marzieh Afkhan, stated emphatically that: “This plane was carrying a high-ranking delegation from Ghana and according to an announcement by the country’s government, the jet was in possession of the US, and chartered by Ghana’s presidency.”