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General News of Monday, 8 November 2010

Source: New Crusading Guide

P.V. Obeng Buys Back 'Ogbojo House'

Mr. Paul Victor Obeng, the Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and a former Presidential Advisor on Governmental Affairs in the NDC (1) Administration led by Mr. J.J. Rawlings, has bought back a house situated at Ogbojo in the Tema District of the Greater Accra Region, fourteen (14) years after the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) ruled that the said property, House No: MIC 37/1 was not the property of Mr. P.V. Obeng as alleged by the Ghanaian Chronicle (June 26, 1995) and the Free Press (Friday, June 23, 1995).

The New Crusading GUIDE, upon receipt of information from some concerned sections of the family of Mr. Renato Noce who died interstate on February 12, 2009, that Mr. Obeng was claiming ownership of the late Noce’s ‘Ogbojo house’; something which they consider unfair and insensitive, contacted the NDPC Chairman for his reaction to the allegation.

Mr. Obeng recalled that he sold the land on which the house is situated to Mr. Noce who was his long time friend in 1993, after which the latter proceeded to put up the said house on that plot of land. Noce was then the Managing Director of Michelleti & Co. but was the Technical Advisor to the Company at the time of his death on February 12, 2009.

He said Mr. Noce built four (4) houses on the parcel of land after which he (Noce) sold three (3) and stayed in the remaining one (1). According to Mr. Obeng, in 2006, Mr. Noce expressed the desire to relocate to his homeland, Italy and indicated he (Noce) wanted to sell the house he was staying in. “I expressed interest in buying the house and an agreement was reached that same year (2006) and the purchase of the house was completed”, Mr. Obeng disclosed.

Mr. Obeng would however not disclose how much he bought the house for. He rather instructed one Nicholas who was present during the interview and who he (Obeng) had introduced as “the Agent for the late Renato Noce”, to provide this reporter with all the relevant documentation on the ownership of the House.

Nicholas subsequently produced two(2) documents; an Indenture of Lease dated February 16, 1993 between Mary Ann Obeng Dufie (“Lessor”) and Roberto Noce (“Lessee”) and an Indenture (Deed) of Assignment dated March 15, 2006 between Roberto Noce being represented by his authorised representative, Renato Noce (“The Assignor”) and PAROS LTD. acting per its Director, Nana Kwaku Agyapong (“The Assignee”). Nicholas could not tell the New Crusading Guide how much Mr. Obeng bought the ‘Ogbojo house’ for. He explained that he was not actively involved in the transaction and that Mr. Renato Noce and Mr. P.V. Obeng, being “long-standing intimate friends”, only asked him (Nicholas) “to facilitate the documentation”.

He disclosed that a letter seeking the consent of Roberto Noce, one of the children of the late Renato Noce in whose name the property was registered, was sent by DHL to him (Roberto Noce) in the USA for his signature and approval. Though he said that letter of consent was duly signed and returned to Accra, unfortunately he could not trace it and therefore could not give this paper a copy for our scrutiny and perusal.

Nicholas also said he was not aware of Nana Kwaku Agyapong, a Director of PAROS Limited as indicated in the March 15, 2006 Deed of Assignment even though the said Nana Kwaku Agyapong purportedly signed the Deed on behalf of PAROS Limited. Interestingly, the space for the signature of the assignee is blank on the document (indenture/deed of assignment) Nicholas gave to the New Crusading Guide last week. Nicholas advised that the question about the identity or whereabouts of Nana Kwaku Agyapong should be directed at Mr. P.V. Obeng.

One Cecil Dontor of P.O. Box 234, however, swore an oath on March 22, 2006 to the effect that he was present on the day of 16th March, 2006 and saw Renato Noce, authorised representative of the said Roberto Noce, sign the Deed of Assignment on behalf of the latter to seal the deal.

On the same day of March 22, 2006 via a Certificate of Proof an instrument was laid before a Deputy Chief Registrar of the High Court to indicate that the transaction had “been duly executed by the within-named RENATO NOCE, authorised representative of ROBERTO NOCE”.

Although the Deed of Assignment is dated March 15, 2006, Nicholas said Emmanuela, a daughter of Renato Noce in 2009, after the death of her father, asked him (Nicholas) about the status of the property to which he answered it (house) belonged to Roberto Noce.

“At that time I did not know the property had been sold”, he told The New Crusading Guide. And yet three (3) years before the demise of Renato Noce, the same Nicholas, according to his own account, had been asked by the two “longtime intimate friends”, Renato Noce and P.V. Obeng, “to facilitate the documentation” of the transaction which was sealed in March 2006.

Nicholas, apart from being unable to trace the ‘letter of consent’ allegedly signed by Roberto Noce, could also not provide The New Crusading GUIDE with any proof or evidence of payment, underscoring with some legitimacy, that that matter fell within the domain of Mr. P.V. Obeng.

The New Crusading GUIDE therefore reverted back to Mr. P.V. Obeng for some documentary proof of payment relative to his acquisition of the ‘Ogbojo house’ in March 2006. While extending their appreciation to him (Obeng) for his cooperation with the paper in their investigations into the purchase of the building which belonged to Renato Noce, now deceased, “we however would be very grateful if you could provide us with any form of proof (cheque, handwritten note, receipt, etc) of payment for the purchase of the house”, wrote Gordon Asare-Bediako (this reporter) on behalf of The New Crusading GUIDE, in a letter dated November 5, 2010 which was sent to Mr. Obeng the same day.

The letter indicated that the request had “become necessary because the agent (Nicholas) you introduced to me (Gordon) during the interview, did not show me any proof of payment”, adding that “provision of such details would enrich our investigations”.

Additionally, a text message making same request was sent to Mr. Obeng’s mobile phone to which he replied “I am out of town and will meet you on your request when I return. Nicholas wouldn’t have evidence of payments”.

Earlier during the interview with Mr. Obeng, he produced a copy of an email dated August 26, 2010 from Roberto Noce, son of the late Renato Noce who is now based in Texas, USA which was addressed to him (Obeng) and copied to Emmanuela, daughter of Renato Noce.

The contents of the email under reference made interesting reading. “Reference is made to your emails to Emmanuela on August 26, 2010. Please note that we have no exact knowledge of the current contents of the house, nor do we wish to have any claim whatsoever to those assets and/or the automobile you mentioned. Furthermore, as we understand from your correspondence, those items and automobile are on your property, you may dispose of them as you wish and compensate the ladies you make reference to with the proceeds and any sum you kindly volunteer to add, as per your email. This would be an act of voluntary goodwill and not the result of an obligation on anyone’s part”, articulated Roberto Noce.

The ladies Roberto Noce referred to in the above email, are two elderly housemaids of the late Renato Noce who are still living in the house Mr. P.V. Obeng contends he bought from Renato Noce in March 2006. One of the housemaids, according to close Noce family sources, had been serving Renato Noce before all his children were born while the other had served him for almost three (3) decades.

One of the children of Renato Noce, Alberto Noretti, a journalist with the State-owned Daily Graphic and now the EU Correspondent for the same paper, based in Europe, according to those close family sources, “after the death of Mr. Noce, told the maids to stay in the house because he knew they had nowhere to go”.

However, the August 26, 2010 email given to New Crusading Guide by Mr. P.V. Obeng underscored that there was no agreement among the children of Renato Noce on how the housemaids should be treated after the death of their father.

“Any and all employment engagements entered into by our late father were naturally terminated upon our father’s death. The ladies working in the house, were employed by our father, who upon passing, did not leave any instructions and/or assets to be allocated to them. It is an unfortunate situation for all and, I am sure you would agree, especially for all members of his family who suffered the personal loss”, intimated Roberto Noce in his response to P.V. Obeng’s email headed “continuous occupancy of house used by your late father” which was originally sent to Emmanuela, daughter of the late Renato Noce on August 26, 2010.

The close Noce family sources expressed surprise that Mr. P.V. Obeng appears to be dealing with Texas-based Roberto Noce and his sister, Emmanuela while ignoring the fact that the late Renato Noce had other children including Alberto Noretti; the journalist and EU Correspondent for the State-owned Daily Graphic.

They explained that even though the ‘Ogbojo hosue’ had been registered under the name of Roberto Noce, “under Italian laws all the children have equal rights in respect of what their father left behind and so nobody can deal with only one child and hope to achieve sustainable and legitimate results/outcome”.

Meanwhile, the New Crusading Guide has dispatched emails to the children and some close family associates of the late Renato Noce, seeking their responses to a series of questions relevant to our on-going investigation into the acquisition and disposal of the assets of the late Renato Noce who, as already indicated, died interstate on February 12, 2009 in Accra, Ghana, after making Ghana his second home for nearly 5 decades. We will publish their answers to our questions in subsequent editions for the perusal of our readers.

House No. MIC37/1 which is the subject-matter of today’s story was one of the four single storey houses situate at Ogbojo, opposite the Local Government Training Institute at Madina, which became the object of enquiry by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in 1995 and 1996 following a series of publications by the Ghanaian Chronicle and the Free Press alleging corruption and illegal acquisition of property against Mr. P.V. Obeng, then the Presidential Advisor on Governmental Affairs.

In his defence at the Commission’s hearing, Mr. Obeng who was eventually exonerated on all the allegations made by the newspapers, “indicated that he acquired the plot on which the four houses stood with the intention of developing a commercial property in Accra. He said later on when he needed money to continue the development of his Airport West property, he disposed of the land. Mr. Obeng said it was the purchaser (Renato Noce) who built the houses in question. He tendered a copy of the conveyance evidencing the transaction, and it was in the name of his daughter, Mary Ann Dufie (in whose name he said he bought the property) as Lessor and one Roberto Noce as Lessee”. (See CHRAJ Report “In The Matter Of Investigation Into Allegations Of Illegal Acquisition Of Properties – Mr. Paul Victor Obeng” – 1995/96 – Pages 7&8).

Mr. Obeng named the purchaser and developer of the land as Mr. Roberto Noce whom he said was acting through his father, Renato Noce. Mr. Obeng said the properties referred to by the Ghanaian Chronicle and the Free Press as situate at East Legon and IPS respectively, were in fact one and the same property which was actually located at Ogbojo near Madina and not far from IPS.

Mr. Renato Noce, who voluntarily appeared before the Commission with his Solicitor, Mr. Peasah-Boadu, to claim ownership of the Ogbojo houses also gave evidence to the effect that he had not owned any immovable property in Ghana throughout his 31 years stay in Ghana until 1992 when he decided to buy some land to build a private residence for himself and also to invest in real estate.

He said he eventually got Mr. Obeng to sell four (4) plots of land at Ogbojo to him for ¢12 million and tendered in evidence an Indenture dated February 16, 1993 and a copy of the Leasehold Agreement executed in his favour by Mary Dufie. With regard to the cost of the buildings, Mr. Noce said the four houses cost him almost ¢300 million to build. He said the buildings were financed by the Noce Family and that even though part of the building materials came from Michelleti & Co., the property was fully owned by him. He categorically denied a suggestion that the buildings had been financed by Mr. P.V. Obeng.

The Commission’s examination of the evidence in the course of its investigation, revealed that the land on which the buildings were situated (Plots 37-40) was originally the property of Mr. P.V. Obeng which he purchased at ¢4,000,000 in 1992 in the name of his daughter, Mary Ann Dufie.

By a lease dated 16th February, 1993, the land was transferred to Renato Noce for a term of 50 years certain at a yearly rent of ¢12,000 and in consideration of the sum of ¢12 million. At the time the land was transferred to Mr. Noce, Mr. Obeng had prepared building plans to develop the land. In addition to the land, Mr. Noce also purchased the building plans.

Among other issues, the Commission also examined evidence of acts of ownership over the property exercised by Mr. Renato Noce. The Commission found that after the completion of the buildings in 1995, Mr. Noce entered into a tenancy agreement in respect of one of the buildings with Messrs Sonitra (Ghana) Limited. The agreement was for one year from 1st December 1995 to 30th November, 1996 and was signed by Roberto Noce as Landlord and Yohanan Or on behalf of Sonitra as tenant. Again in respect of one of the buildings Mr. Noce entered into a similar tenancy agreement with Messrs Marples. This Agreement was dated 1st November 1995.

At the time of CHRAJ’s investigation, Mr. Roberto Noce was himself in physical occupation of the third of the buildings, and he said he was considering housing one of his company’s directors in the fourth building.

In the face of the weight of evidence examined, the Commission made the following findings in respect of the four (4) storey houses at Ogbojo. *(1): “The four (4) storey buildings at Ogbojo are the property of Mr. Renato Noce, Managing Director of Michelleti Company Limited. The evidence was clear that Mr. Obeng granted a 50 year lease of the land to Mr. Noce in 1993. An indenture evidencing the transaction dated 16th February, 1993 was accordingly signed. The execution formalities were concluded on 23rd February 1993 with a Certificate of Proof signed by the Deputy Chief Registrar of the High Court, Koforidua. The Commission finds no evidence either direct or indirect which suggest that the buildings were put up by Mr. P.V. Obeng. Apart from the indenture, Mr. Noce has exercised such acts of ownership that leaves no doubt that he is the lawful owner of the property.

*(2): “The Commission also accepts Mr. Noce’s explanation that he was compelled to use Mr. Obeng’s documents on the land to apply for building permit because his (Noce’s) documents had not been registered. This explanation is accepted as plausible because construction work started soon after the lease agreement, and considering the time it takes to register documents on land, Mr. Noce would have had to wait for several months, if not years to start the project.

*(3): “The Commission also found that because Mr. Noce had to use Mr. Obeng’s document for an early take-off of the project, the name on that document, i.e. Mary Ann Dufie, also had to be used in applying for utility supplies such as electricity and water. This explains why that name appeared on utility bills. As a matter of fact, the bills were actually issued in the joint names of Mary Ann Dufie and Michelleti & Co. Despite the fact the bills bore the two names, the fact was established that those bills were incurred and paid for by Mr. Noce.

*(4): “The Commission also found no evidence to support the suggestion that Mr. Noce put up those buildings as a gift to Mr. Obeng in appreciation of a favour done him. As a matter of fact, the Commission’s attention was not brought to Mr. Noce having received any form of assistance from Mr. Obeng for which he was obliged to give property worth ¢300 million in gratitude”. (Source: CHRAJ Report In The Matter Of Investigation Into Allegation Of Illegal Acquisition Of Properties – Mr. Paul Victor Obeng – 1995/96 – Pages 22 & 23).

In conclusion, the Commission stated that “In the circumstances, the Commission finds that none of the numerous allegations leveled against the Presidential Advisor could be substantiated. The Commission therefore makes no adverse findings against him. The Commission has, from the evidence, formed the opinion that MR. P.V. OBENG has neither acquired wealth illegally, nor is there any evidence in support of the allegations of corruption made against him”.

Ironically, fourteen (14) years after CHRAJ reached the above conclusion relative to newspaper allegations of illegal acquisition of wealth and corruption against Mr. P.V. Obeng, the latter’s claim of ownership of one of the four storey houses at Ogbojo which were the subject of enquiry by CHRAJ, through a transaction dated March 15, 2006, has raised eyebrows and sparked concern in sections of the family of the late Renato Noce from whom PV bought the said house and to whom he had first sold the four plots of land in 1993.

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