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Airbus saga: I took no bribe – Mahama breaks silence

Former President John Mahama has denied reports that he benefitted financially from the purchase of some aircraft for the Ghana Armed Forces when he was in office.

Speaking for the first time since the Airbus scandal broke, Mr. Mahama said due diligence was followed in the purchase of the two aircraft for the Ghana Armed Forces.

“Let me state without any equivocation that no financial benefit accrued to me. Neither was there any form of inducement in the purchase of the aircraft. My singular motivation was to equip and retool the Ghana Armed Forces in a manner that would make the discharge of their national and international roles efficient and less burdensome and for all the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make, they do not deserve less,” the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress told the state-owned Daily Graphic.

He added: “I am happy that the said aircraft have become the backbone of the Ghana Air Force and its operations. They are used for troop transportation, logistics deployment and medical evacuation.”

In the report, he said he felt fulfilled that as Vice-President and later as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, his “overarching desire to ensure that our men and women in uniform were provided with the tools and equipment they needed to fulfil their constitutional mandate of ensuring public safety, security and protecting the territorial integrity of our nation were reasonably met”.

“I am proud that under my tenure as Chairman of the Armed Forces Council and as Commander-in-Chief, the security services saw the biggest retooling and equipping in the history of Ghana.”

“All the processes and negotiations by the government in the acquisition of the aircraft were conducted directly with Airbus and my administration without any untoward influence either directly or indirectly through any agents it may have appointed. Indeed, nowhere in the available UK Court Documents has it been said that Airbus paid any public or government official on the side for the purchase of the aircraft,” he stated.

Mr Mahama said all decisions for the acquisition were conducted by a very competent team at the military headquarters.

“Some of our gallant and highly efficient officers who composed the technical team are still in active service in the military and I reject any idea that they have arrived at their decisions through inducement or coercion by any person,” Mr Mahama said.

Mr Mahama said a plan to re-equip the Ghana Armed Forces and the Ghana Police Service was submitted to, and approved by then President Mills.

“It involved the acquisition of naval ships, aircraft, vehicles, arms and ammunition, safety equipment, field equipment and expanding accommodation units,” he stated.

Former President Mahama indicated that at the time he took office as Vice-President in 2009, the military was already considering the acquisition of two C27J aircraft, but the quoted price, (above $40 million per unit) was considered high.

“Eventually, the military settled on two C295 aircraft at a cost of about $24 million each, bringing the cost of the two aircraft to about $48 million,” he emphasised.

Former President Mahama explained that the Airbus matter was an issue between the Airbus company and its representatives who were found to be in breach of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rules.

“This is clearly and unambiguously stated in all the available documents of the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). It has nothing to do with the government of Ghana or with any official of government. To state otherwise is to misrepresent the conclusions of the SFO report and spread deliberate falsehood.

Long silence

Asked why he did not comment on the issue at the time the news broke, Mr Mahama said he had been reluctant to personally comment on the various allegations made in respect of the acquisition of the aircraft except for the official reactions of his staff and former government officials.

“I recognised that it was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in Ghana, following the almost immediate referral to that body by the President,” he said.

When asked if the Office of the Special Prosecutor had reached out to him on its investigations, he answered in the negative.

He said recent events, however, had brought him to the realisation that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his administration were not interested in the issue as a matter of good faith, but rather they were determined to use it to further their political interests.

Mr Mahama served notice that since the NPP had made the issue of corruption a major item of debate in the lead-up to the 2020 elections, he had accepted the challenge.

“I intend to address all the allegations of corruption made against me over the years, and I will also take on fully, Nana Akufo-Addo on his own record of corruption,” he stated.

Police Investigations

The Ghana Police Service has declared British television and radio actor Philip Middlemiss wanted over the role he played in the alleged £5 million airbus bribery.

Ghana’s special prosecutor Martin Amidu since February launched a full scale investigation into the Airbus scandal and has released the passport details of the actor and four others online as wanted for questioning.

He is being sought after along four others in relation to the £50 million sale of three Airbus C-295 military planes to Ghana. According to the Sun, after starring in the ITV Soap, Middlemiss reportedly headed to Ghana to start making a film.

He then claims to have befriended the brother of the country’s former vice-president, before heading back to the UK.

Middlemiss lives in a smart £400,000 detached property in Greater Manchester, reports The Sun, despite him being declared bankrupt in 2012 over unpaid tax.

Documents from Ghana’s special prosecutor Amidu reveal that Middlemiss could have been a project manager for Airbus, which sold the planes, when the alleged bribery took place.

It is also alleged that he incorporated a company in the UK in 2010 through which he assisted Airbus with the suspect deal. Of those wanted two of the others are British nationals and the third is a dual national of the UK and Ghana, the Sun reported.

Middlemiss’s girlfriend Leanne Davis told The Sun she had no knowledge of any investigation. “I don’t know anything about that. Phil’s not here. I’m not sure when he’ll be back,” she said.

Early February, European aviation giant, Airbus, confessed to paying huge sums of money as bribe to government officials and persons close to the seat of government during the Mills and Mahama administration.

Court documents reveal that Ghana is among countries Airbus doled out millions of dollars as bribe between 2011 and 2015 to strike deals through secret agents.

“It was a pervasive and pernicious bribery scheme in various divisions of Airbus SE that went on for a number of years,” US District Judge Thomas Hogan said.

The European planemaker has now agreed a record $4bn settlement with France, the United Kingdom and the United States as a result of the scandal. The US Department of Justice said the deal was the largest-ever foreign bribery settlement.

The scheme was run by a unit at Airbus’ French headquarters, which its one-time chief executive, Tom Enders, reportedly called “bullshit castle”.

The disclosures, made public after a nearly four-year investigation spanning sales to more than a dozen overseas markets, came as courts on both sides of the Atlantic formally approved settlements that lift a legal cloud that has hung over Europe’s largest aerospace group for years.

Source: Daily Mail

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