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General News of Monday, 28 January 2013

Source: Daily Guide

$80 million worth of Gold flown out; Officials tight-lipped

Stunning facts are emerging that Ghana may have dished out a 1.5tons of gold worth almost $80 million to the People's Republic of Iran without proper documentation.

On January 19, Mehr News Agency (MNA), a private Iranian news agency, reported that Turkey had released a cargo plane full of Gold from Ghana "carrying Ghana's commitment to Iran in Gold ".

On January 2, 2013, Turkish authorities seized the stash of gold in a Turkish Airline cargo plane bound for Dubai en route to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport in Turkey.

The Turkish authorities claim the gold lacked the necessary papers needed before it could be transported.

It was however realised that the information given to the authorities was not entirely true because nobody knew where the cargo originated from or where its destination was, even though the gold onboard the plane was, undeniably, gold carrying Ghanaian seal.

Both Ghanaian authorities and executives of the Turkish Airline have been tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding the strange gold haul.

After the seizure in Turkey, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi was in Ghana to meet President Mahama on January 8,2013, behind closed doors. The issue of the gold might have been part of the issue discussed.

Just after that, President Mahama's next official assignment outside Africa was to Turkey, ostensibly to plead for the release of the gold haul on which the government had maintained sturdy silence.

An earlier enquiry by Daily Guide at the Turkish Embassy did not yield any answer.

The Turkish Ambassador, Aydin Nurham, who spoke to Daily Guide in early January could not volunteer any answer, but promised that his outfit was going to investigate the issue.

Reports said that Turkish authorities fined the plane $1,910 for stopping at Ataturk Airport on grounds of missing documents.

Anatolia News Agency, Turkish official news agency, had it that ULS, the cargo owner would pay $67 for missing documents and $ 1910 for stopping at Ataturk Airport.

The cargo was bound for Iran to deliver the gold to the Persian country. It was to stop at Dubai Airport.

It is believed that the US and the EU sanctions on the Iranian banking sector have limited bank payments of countries monetary commitments to Iran and they barter gold for Iranian oil and gas.

Danquah Institute Queries

Pro- New Patriotic Party (NPP) think tank, the Danquah Institute (DI), believes that there is something fishy about the whole transaction, since it was done on the blind side of Ghanaians.

"The 1.5 tons of gold, worth some $80million, is said to be Ghana's financial commitments to Iran" over a transaction, details of which are not known to the public.

This seemingly curious transaction took place over the election period and at the time of the transition. What is also curious is the choice of the President to travel to Turkey around the time of this unspoken crisis and yet this issue has not featured in any official communication about the presidential trip," stated DI in a statement issued on Sunday, January 27, 2012.

"The question which arises, therefore, is that why would an official transaction involving $80million worth of gold between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran lack the proper documentation? If indeed, the gold was to settle Ghana's "financial commitments" to Iran, why would it be missing some crucial documentation necessitating its seizure at the Turkish airport?" DI questioned.

According, to DI, there was no such arrangement between Ghana and Iran to the effect that the country's financial commitments to Iran have to be paid in gold.

"We are aware of the use of Ghana's cocoa as collateral for the construction of the Bui hydroelectric dam. We are also well aware of the use of Ghana's oil as collateral for the $3billion loan from the China Development Bank," explains DI.

Mahama Mast Answer

The Danquah Institute wants President Mahama to explain to Ghanaians why the country's gold was used to make payments to Iran and why the plane carrying the gold was seized in Turkey for lack of proper documentation.

The government has so far refused to give any answers to this matter since the plane was seized on January 2, 2013, "and the silence from government on a transaction, said to involve some $80million, is deafening. We, at DI, are demanding full disclosure of this transaction from government for the benefit of the people of Ghana and in the interest of good governance," charged DI.

A known allegation against the Islamic Republic of Iran is that the country evades US sanctions by engaging in a barter-trade system where countries with gold, for instance, purchase crude oil from Iran and pay gold in return. However, it is not known if Ghana has purchased crude from Iran since Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) has not been operational for several months.

According to DI, from June to November 2012, Iran evaded US sanctions by importing Turkish gold to pay for billions of dollars worth of energy sales to Turkey.

"Ghana has been an oil producing country since 2011, are Ghanaians aware that we barter with gold with the Islamic Republic of Iran, or any other government for that matter? What is Iran giving Ghana which requires our financial commitments to her be made in gold? Is Ghana's Parliament aware of such a transaction?" the DI asked

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