General News Mon, 9 Sep 2002

Ex-Finance Minister cited in $4m offshore deal

The white elephant Gulf Stream presidential jet acquired by the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the controversial $1billion International Financial Consortium (IFC) loan secured by the Kufuor administration may not have been the only commercial deals involving Ghana done through a chain of phantom intermediaries.

The 1993 $4million divestiture of the Ghana National Manganese Company (GNMC) at Nsuta-Wassa, near Tarkwa may have been done through a similar group of faceless investors, operating as Ghana International Manganese Company (GIMC), same as Gallen Inc. and Schneider?s IFC, which are all off-shore companies. While Gallen is based in Cayman Island, the IFC is based in Bahamas.

?According to credible documents available to the National Concord, the GIMC which owns 90% of Ghana Manganese Company (GMC), the divested GNMC, is owned by two companies.

These are in turn owned by another company, which is in turn owned by other companies, which are also owned by several companies, ad infinitum? The two fronting companies as well as their shareholders all have the same postal address in the Channel Islands?.

?Concord could not confirm the actual figure quoted for the purchase of the Ghana National Manganese Company (GNMC), but it is believed to be in excess of several millions of US dollars?.

This is borne out by revelations that emerged during the paper?s investigations that at the time of the take-over, the GNMC had about 6million US dollars worth of processed fines (low grade manganese ore) waiting to be shipped for export. This was packaged together with other assets of the GNMC and offered at a devalued price of $4million. Paradoxically, former Finance Minister, Kwame Peprah, headed the Minerals Commission Board that okayed the deal with GIMC in his capacity then as minister for Mines and Energy and the chief protagonist in the acquisition of the controversial presidential jet.

Five years down the line, the company has still defaulted in the payment of $2million out of the purchasing price of $4m to the government, in spite of appropriating the $6m worth of processed ore when it took over.

Even though Peprah who is also standing trial for his alleged role in the Quality Grain saga, warned at a press conference in 2000 that companies that had not concluded divestiture transactions would lose their deposits and might at the same time risk sanctions, no such action was taken.

?When the National Concord contacted the DIC to shed some light on the divestiture process of the GNMC, it referred the National Concord to the Minerals Commission. From our investigations, it all began in the summer of 1993 when some investors, who now appear faceless, walked to Union House, Union Street, Saint Hillier, Jersey and registered Ghana International Manganese Company (GIMC) at Union House in Channel Island, a known offshore ground, where company law does require the disclosure of beneficial or interest ownership.

Their sole purpose was to buy the Ghana National Manganese Company, which was one of the companies on the divestiture list. The DIC is reported to have treated the divestiture of the GNMC as a partnership between the government of Ghana and its unknown partners.

Under the partnership, Ghana government maintained 10% shares in the company with its total share valued at ?10 billion at no parity. The 905-shareholding rights gave these investors and partners of government 200,000,000 shares.

Certified documents gleaned from the registrar of companies in Jersey, Channels Island, revealed that two companies namely Worthy Nominees Limited and Worthy Securities Limited in turn own Ghana International Manganese Company at Nsuta.

Worthy Nominees Limited and Worthy Securities Limited are also owned y seven other companies. In its January 1, 2001 annual report, submitted to the registrar of companies in Jersey, the number of shareholding held by Worthy Nominees was quoted as 19285 (ordinary shares). Worthy Securities represented itself as having 32,665 in ordinary shares.

Both companies also operate with an identical address. P.O. Box 361, Union House, Unions Street, St. Helier, Jersey, JE49Wn, Channel Islands. Documents from the Royal Court of Jersey indicate that Worthy Nominees was registered in February 20, 1984.

?On the application of the persons whose names appear on the subscribers? pages, being founders of a limited liability company of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the said company, the enactments in force in the Island, relating to limited liability and the control of borrowing,? the court document said.

A 1993 annual report of Worthy Nominees indicates that the company is owned by five shareholders namely: Stephen Andrew Homeyard, William King Roger Charles Maddock, each with 30 shares apiece, while Nicholas Forbes and Gordon Peter Angus have 15 shares each. All five shareholders share the same address at Union Street, St. Helier, Jersey CI.

By January 1, 1996, the shares of Stephen Andrew Homeyard were transferred to Worthy Trust limited. The same structure of Worthy Trust remained 30 shares until January 2000, when all the other four shareholders also transferred their shares to the company, making it the sole shareholder/owner of Worthy Nominees.

Meanwhile, the chiefs and people of the area from where the GIMC operations are being run have since May last year, been calling on the Kufuor administration to probe the divestiture of the company and to investigate its mode of acquisition.

"SIL audience interested in having their views on issues published in a local newspaper can address it to the National Concord at natconcord@yahoo.com ".


Source: National Concord