General News of 2014-04-24

Ghana President's kin that is pain in the neck

The Ghanaian economy is performing poorly and corruption charges against aides of President John Mahama are on the headlines.
At such tough times, the least Mr. President would expect is bad press from his family.
Unfortunately, his younger brother, Ibrahim, who is chief executive of Engineers and Planners, continues to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Last week, Ibrahim hit the international headlines when a US flagged plane that his company had leased was spotted at Tehran Airport in Iran with a delegation from Ghana.
Official government response was that Ghana had diplomatic relations with Iran and so there was nothing wrong with a Ghanaian delegation being spotted in Tehran aboard an aircraft from the West Africa state.
That explanation would have ended the issue, but eye-brows were raised because the US has imposed sanctions on Iran and, therefore, any aircraft flying the US flag on Iranian territory would definitely arouse some suspicion. That was exactly what happened.
To compound issues, the Iranian Foreign ministry officials said the plane carried a Ghanaian government delegation to Tehran for official talks.
Strangely, initial response from the authorities in Accra was that the aircraft carried a group of businessmen who had gone to discuss investment opportunities with Iran.
That contrasted sharply with what the Iranian Foreign Affairs ministry officials claimed that the delegation was on an official business with the Iranian authorities.
Following that, anti-graft group, Ghana Integrity Initiatives (GII) was now asking the government to provide the manifest for the people on the plane to convince Ghanaians that it was not an official delegation.
GII’s executive secretary Vitus Azeem said it was important for the government to come clean because if the delegation was made up of its officials, then it would be necessary to find out if the country’s procurement laws were not breached in the decision to use the Engineers and Planners aircraft and how much was paid for its use.
The same Ibrahim was in the news for the most part of last year for refusing to pay up $38 million he owed a financial institution, Merchant Bank.
A letter purported to have been written to President John Atta Mills by the bank’s board of directors to intervene on their behalf after all attempts they had made to recoup the loan owed by Ibrahim, failed. It turned out that the man who represented President Mahama at the Supreme Court during the Election 2012 hearing, Mr. Tony Lithur, had also served as counsel for Ibrahim a year earlier in his dealings with the bank.
Months after the media broke the story, Ibrahim’s company said it had been granted $60 million loan from the Africa Export Import Bank, part of which has been used to pay off its debt to Merchant Bank.
It is not yet clear how the government was going to handle the accusation that it had used Ibrahim’s aircraft for an official business after it had denied it, if the names on the plane’s manifest prove to be to the contrary that the delegation was not just of businessmen.