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Feature Article of Sunday, 15 January 2012

Columnist: IMANI Ghana

Ghana Free Zones Board’s Partner Involved in a Scam?

*January 14th 2012*


When questions were first asked about the relationship between the Ghana
Free Zones Board and China Hasan International Holding (en.hasan.cc), in
relation to the Sekondi Industrial Estate, the focus was on whether the
Chinese company, which had been awarded a license to develop the free zone
enclave in Sekondi, had the requisite financial capacity to do so (see:
http://www.imanighana.com/wordpress/?p=211).


A detailed analysis of its recent activities suggested that China Hasan did
not have the capacity to raise the finance for the estimated $4 billion
project (see:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-18/hasan-of-china-to-spend-over-4-billion-in-ghana-industry-zone-gna-says.html),
and IMANI’s report on the matter made that point quite strongly.


The concerns raised about the company’s address in Hong Kong however were
merely the frills on a rather tight argument.


After one response from the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MOTI), and
further investigation, partly prompted by that response, it has become
clear that the company at the center of the recent controversy over the
Sekondi Industrial Estate *may be intentionally deceiving* the government
of Ghana. The question is whether the government may be allowing this to
happen without sufficient resistance.


The matter has now moved beyond due diligence on financial capacity to
potential con artistry. It is now time for the Ministry of Trade & Industry
and its agency, the Ghana Free Zones Board, *to stop issuing vague
rejoinders and immediately take steps to amend the Sekondi Industrial
Estate component of the Tranche A1 project summary of the China Development
Bank (CDB) master facility.*

*
*

IMANI issued its first report on the Sekondi Free Zone Industrial Estate
project on 10th January 2012 (http://www.imanighana.com/wordpress/?p=211).
As stated above, we mentioned in this report our discovery that what we had
learnt about the Hong Kong address of China Hasan International Holding,
given on its website and in other documents we had seen as: 2nd Floor Teng
fuh Commercial Building, Queens Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, cast
significant doubts on the credibility of Hasan International.


The reason was that the 2nd floor of this rather rundown building in
downtown Hong Kong (follow the imanighana.org link above for an image of
the building) was occupied by a number SME companies plying various trades
in such items as jewellery and textiles, but none that seemed capable of
building an industrial estate in Ghana to process industrial minerals for
export. A search of the tenant list did not yield any name similar to
“China Hasan International Holding”.


The MOTI’s response came on the 13th of January 2012.


In the said response, the MOTI emphatically stated: “The Ministry of Trade
and the GFZB are aware that their [China Hasan International’s] offices are
located in Beijing.”


What is intriguing is that a few hours before the release of this report,
the website of China Hasan mysteriously transformed. The address on the
front-page and some inner pages were changed from the one in Hong Kong to a
new one, this time in Beijing. Specifically, the new address was given as:
Floor 19, Jialong International, No.19 Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang
District, Beijing 100026. [Luckily several screenshots of the website had
been stored by several observers with an interest in the matter].


It is completely within the rights of a company to change its physical
location or mailing address (or to “relocate”, as a notice of the website
announced) and to update its website to reflect the change.


The difficulty arises when it backdates the change to 1st April 2011, but
in the haste places the notice announcing the change in the 2010 news
“column” (see:
http://en.hasan.cc/news_detail_news/newsId=55bdb178-a320-44e1-9c49-94ccc589b29f.html
).


It is even more worrying when it comes to light that a brochure issued as
recently as September 2011 (*http://www.hasan.cc/images/hs.pdf) *by China
Hasan as part of a major communications exercise still lists ONLY the
dubious Hong Kong address.


Indeed a comparison of google-cached records of the company’s website and
the current site brings up many odd and dubious contradictions and
variations, but time and focus prevent us from discussing them in any
detail. Let’s focus on one issue at a time.


The address issue does not indeed end with the Beijing – Hong Kong
confusion.


Given that we had grave doubts about the veracity of the new changes on
Hasan International’s website, we decided to subject the new address in
Beijing’s Chaoyang District to verification as well.
We easily located the address, as follows: no.19 Chaoyang Park Road,
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100026. The challenge was locating the property
that China Hasan claims to occupy at the address: Jialong International.
The only property on the address given by Hasan International turned out to
be a luxury hotel built in traditional courtyard style: the Beijing Jun
Wang Fu Hotel. It is true that some high rise hotels host corporate
offices. The challenge with that thesis in this case is that this hotel has
about 3 floors. Yet Hasan International claims to be on the 19th floor of
the property at this address, so we were led to a logical logjam. We
wondered whether there was another property at 19 Chaoyang Park Road that
could explain this bizarre confusion. Modern technology came to the rescue:
we requested a low-level, close-up, high-resolution GeoEye aerial
photograph. The results were shocking. There isn’t a high-rise building
with more than a few floors in the immediate vicinity of no. 19 Chaoyang
Park Road in Beijing. The only “Jialong” remotely close to this part of
Chaoyang district is a parking lot – the Jialong International Mansion
Parking Lot. As an organisation of private citizens in Ghana, IMANI
believes that it has, within its limited means, raised sufficient doubts
about the credibility of China Hasan International to warrant an official
investigation by the MOTI into the affair, instead of the vague, and
somewhat glib, responses their Communications Directorate has issued so
far. If such an investigation comes up with evidence that there is nothing
to fear, we shall rejoice like all patriotic Ghanaians. In the end, all we
want is for this Sekondi Industrial Estate project, which by the
government’s own wording is a “flagship initiative of the Better Ghana
Agenda”, to succeed. That can only happen if the $100 million being secured
from CDB does not go to support a project that is threatened because of its
less-than-credible lead project financier. Issued by IMANI Center for
Policy & Education (www.imanighana.org) and syndicated via:
www.Africanliberty.org

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