THE number of government officials in the Kufuor administration being tried for their complicity in the liquidation of the Ghana Airways and the formation of the Ghana International Airline Limited, yesterday came to four.
Three of them, Dr Richard Anane, former Minister of Transportation; Dr Anthony Akoto-Osei, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; and Kwadwo Mpiani, former Presidential Affairs Minister, together with Sammy Crabbe, former Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the NPP, had been put before court on March 31.
However, when the court resumed sitting yesterday, the Attorney-General added the former Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Professor George Gyan- Baffour.
The five accused persons now variously face 22 counts of conspiracy, willfully causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretences, deceit of public officer, misapplication of public funds, opening of an offshore account without authority from Bank of Ghana, and stealing. Previously, the four men faced 13 counts.
They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case has been adjourned to May 10.
Meanwhile, the court has granted Prof. Gyan-Baffour GH¢300,000 self-cognisance bail, and granted him leave to attend a conference in Tanzania between May 11 and 13, following a request from the Clerk of Parliament.
The other accused persons were admitted to their formal bail of GH¢300,000 self-cognisance bail each.
Four more people who were not named, are said to be outside the jurisdiction of the court.
When the case was called, Mrs. Gertrude Aikins, Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court, presided over by Justice Bright Mensah, that the prosecution intended to add Prof. Gyan-Baffour to the case, and thus sought to substitute the charge sheet with a new one.
The court consequently discharged Dr. Anane, Dr. Akoto-Osei, Mr. Mpiani and Mr. Crabbe on the 13 charges, after which the new charge sheet was admitted.
Currently, Dr. Anane is facing three counts of conspiracy, willfully causing financial loss to the state, and defrauding by false pretence, while Dr. Akoto-Osei is facing nine counts of conspiracy, deceit of public officer, willfully causing financial loss to the state and misapplication of public funds.
Mr. Mpiani, on his part, is charged with three counts of conspiracy, deceit of public officer, and causing financial loss to the state, with Mr. Crabbe facing five counts of opening an offshore account without authority, conspiracy, stealing and willfully causing financial loss to the state.
Prof. Gyan-Baffour is facing six counts of conspiracy, deceit of public officer and willfully causing financial loss to the state.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Aikins has apologized to Prof. Gyan-Baffour for creating the impression that he refused an invitation to appear for interrogation by the security agencies. This was after his counsel had raised issues with the impression by Mrs.Aikins.
His counsel, Nene Amegatcher, told the court that the action by the prosecution “has unfairly prejudiced my client”.
But Mrs. Aikins said: “It wasn’t as if I wanted to embarrass the professor” .
Giving the background to the case, Mrs. Aikins said following the extremely poor operational and financial performance of Ghana Airways, the government sought, in 2002, for a strategic partner to help turn the fortunes of the crippled airline around.
Word quickly spread around concerning the government’s intentions and insiders, as well as outsiders, lined up to present their bids.
The prosecutor said Mr Crabbe tried to set up a call centre with his company, Mary Green Slade Information Services (MGIS), to service Ghana Airways but failed in his bid to clinch a deal.
She saidMr Crabbe, therefore, set out to create an opportunity for MGIS and presented a proposal to the erstwhile board of Ghana Airways on how he could turn the company around.
She said Mr Crabbe later rather submitted a proposal to form a new airline and sent four unsolicited proposals to the government and the Ghana Airways board.
Mrs Aikins said the four applications submitted to the government were presented to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) for evaluation and in its letter dated January 9, 2004 to the erstwhile Chief Executive of Ghana Airways, Mr Philip Owusu, and Dr Richard Anane, the company categorically stated, “Our evaluation of the four proposals indicates that the proposal from the consortium of KLM Kenya Airways/Fidelity Group dated October 2003 and entitled, ‘Ghana Airways Restructuring Proposal’ achieved the best fit with the evaluation criteria set by the GA board.”
She said in order of merit, the technical evaluation rated KLM/Kenya Airways/Fidelity, 67 per cent; Ghana Air Partners, 51 per cent; Ghana International Airlines, 44 per cent, and Corporate Trade Solutions, 31 per cent.
She said although it was clear that the best technical and financial proposal was from the KLM group, Dr Anane “eliminated the company by shifting the goal post”. He later submitted the chosen plan, the Ghana International Airline, to Price Waterhouse Coopers for evaluation.
Mrs Aikins said the Price Waterhouse Coppers (PWC), in its final report of April 22, 2004, noted, that “In its current form, it is difficult to identify what benefits the plan offers to GoG. The GIA plan does not meet all the ministry’s requirements as specified.”
She added that the PWC, realising that the government was determined to go ahead with the deal anyway, advised thus: “The ministry should seek firm evidence from GIA of the commitment from potential financiers and other interested parties to the plan.”
Mrs Aikins said the PWC further advised that the ministry should undertake due diligence exercise on the GIA and its sponsors, to give itself the comfort that the new company would have adequate financial and managerial capacity to take over the commercial operations that Ghana Airways was currently responsible for.”
She said there was a Ghanaian partner, Unger Oaks Consult, which was the brain behind the consortium but it was conspicuously left out of the official press release signed by Dr Anane when the deal was consummated.
“The main object was, it appears, to hide at the initial stages before it was a done deal that Unger Oaks Consult, a Ghanaian company of little pedigree, was partner and potentially the most powerful one in the GIA consortium,” she said.
“In the privacy of Cabinet, Dr Anane, however, stated in the Cabinet Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Ghana and the Ghana International Airlines on Ghana Airways restructuring, among other things, that the draft of the MoU was being entered into between the Government of Ghana and the consortium of Sentry Financial International Inc, a Utah corporation, World Transport Group (WTG), a Utah corporation, and Unger Oaks Consult Ltd of Accra, collectively called Ghana International Airlines,” she added
Mrs Aikins said the Ghana International Airlines Ltd (GIAL) was incorporated in Accra on November 30, 2004 with a share capital of $7 million and it commenced business on December 20, 2004.
She said the Government of Ghana, through the Minister of Finance, holds 70 per cent share, equivalent to $4.9 million equity, and the GIA-USA-LLC, represented by R. Kirk Heaton, holding 30 per cent shareholding, equivalent to $2.1 million, with the management of the company given to the minority shareholder.
She said Mr Ralph Aikin, who was to become CEO, and the management were to find $55 million to implement the company’s business plan but they failed to do so.
Mrs Aikins said the prosecution would lead evidence to show that despite the existence of all those factors, Mpiani, Osei Akoto and Gyan-Baffuor unlawfully disbursed or authorised the disbursement of the colossal sum of $56 million to the then floundering GIAL.
In the case of Mpiani, she said, he usurped the power of the President at the time by authorising the release of the sum of $6 million to GIAL.
Osei-Akoto, she added, signed an agreement with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) for a loan of $15 million as additional equity for the government but misapplied it.
“The prosecution will also prove that the tenure or period of management of the so-called strategic partners was fraught with blatant action of recklessness and corruption,” she added.