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Feature Article of Thursday, 12 April 2012

Columnist: Thelma Benjamin

Woyome: Ray Smith, MPOWPAK and The President (Part 1)

…Investigative Piece On Ray Smith Secret Letter To The President

The barrage of reportage relating to the payment of Judgment Debt to Ghanaian businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, having abated over the last couple of weeks, appears to have resurrected again. This matter, which is now fully in the courts of the Republic of Ghana, dominated the media terrain for close to four months during which volumes of information were presented with different twists and slants to the Ghanaian populace. The name “Alfred Woyome” became the name most frequently seen and heard on the Ghanaian media landscape. Indeed, Alfred Woyome received more mentions even than the Government of Ghana over a four-month period.

As other matters of national concern and partisan political interest came up, mentions of the “Woyome Issue” started declining. It was the belief of media watchers that, finally, the Ghanaian media had decided to leave the issues at stake with the courts of the land. But the declining trend was broken when copies of a letter purported to have been written by one Ray Smith [“signing” as CEO, m-Powapak Limited] started making the rounds of the Ghanaian Media last Tuesday, the 3rd of April, 2012. This letter, as published in the New Crusading Guide newspaper of Tuesday, 3rd April, 2012, and as subsequently carried in other media, is described as being a “Secret Letter” written to President John Evans Atta Mills by the said Ray Smith. The “Secret Letter” is also described as being a cover letter for a ten-page submission by Ray Smith in which he [Ray Smith] is supposed to have made some assertions that make interesting reading.

As a Media House with a keen sense of duty to ensure that our publics receive a well-rounded and balanced view of all matters of public concern, our team of investigative reporters joined the fray to get a fuller perspective on the letter purportedly written to the President by Mr. Ray Smith.

We present a 4-part series that seeks to place Mr. Ray Smith’s purported letter against claims made by Mr. Alfred Woyome and to attempt a consolidation of the various points of information into one narrative that gives balance to the reading public.

How Alfred Woyome came to know the Smiths & became Honorary Vice-Consul of Austria to the Republic of Ghana

Alfred Woyome came into contact with Ray and Ingeborg Anna Smith somewhere in 2000. Mr. Ray Smith is a Director of both mPowapak Ghana and Austroinvest, two of the companies mentioned in the matter relating to the State’s payment of GHS51.2million as Judgment debt to Alfred Agbesi Woyome. Mrs. Ingeborg Anna Smith is the Honorary Consul of Austria to Ghana and wife of Mr. Ray Smith.

After concluding a stint of work that spanned a number of years with the Libyan authorities, Alfred Woyome finally returned to Ghana somewhere in the year 2000. By this time, the New Patriotic Party [NPP] had taken over the reigns of Government from the National Democratic Congress [NDC].

A week after his return to Ghana, Mrs. Ingeborg Anna Smith [Ray’s wife] called Alfred Woyome on phone for a meeting upon the instructions of her own Government, the Government of Austria, which, Alfred Woyome later found, was as a result of contacts made by the Libyan authorities with her own Government, through the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

After some time, Alfred Woyome was made Honorary Vice-Consul of Austria to the Republic of Ghana as captured in a report written by Ingeborg Smith which is routine. Alfred Woyome’s engagement in this respect did not have any Expiry date [or fixed term of contract] and so Ray Smith’s assertion that his term ended is factually inaccurate.

Alfred Woyome resigns as Vice-Consul

Alfred Woyome actually resigned his position as Honorary Vice-Consul after Ray and his wife visited then President John Agyekum Kufuor early one morning in his house regarding some issues which also involved the visitation [raid] of the Austrian Consulate by the National Security apparatus on account of the fact that Alfred Woyome visited Libya and might have brought in some money for HE Jerry John Rawlings and Others to fund a coup d’état. The Smiths mounted pressure on Alfred Woyome to discontinue his support of the NDC, which Alfred Woyome resisted. It was after all these happenings that Alfred Woyome resigned by issuing a clearly worded letter which is on record.

Consulate Funding Arrangement: Ray Smith’s allusion to Alfred Woyome not meeting the terms of his engagement in relation to the cost of funding the consulate is vehemently countered by Mr. Woyome. Every time Mrs. Ingeborg Smith presented Alfred Woyome with bills, he claims he always paid. Alfred Woyome has never claimed to be the exclusive financier of the Consulate: Apart from some furnishings at the Consulate, it is a fact that the Telephone lines at the Consulate are still in the name of Alfred Woyome. As to Ray Smith’s reference to the title Mr. Woyome was purportedly being called by people [“His Excellency”], Mr. Woyome asserted that “it is not a matter that Ray Smith can have the capacity to speak about because he was [and is] not a staff of the Austrian Consulate; he only happens to be married to the Honorary Consul of Austria to the Republic of Ghana. Even stranger is his use of an mPowapak letterhead in his communication to the President, and commenting on consulate issues therein.”

Ray Smith’s reference to a supposedly “very old” car that Mr. Woyome was driving within the week of his final return to Ghana could best be described as being “childish and ridiculous” in the words of Alfred Woyome‘. Mr. Woyome went on to ask: What did he seek to achieve by making this statement?’ ‘Could this be the basis for writing a “secret” letter to the President?’ Mr. Woyome was of the opinion that Ray Smith’s reference to the car he was driving can not imply that he or his wife funded his acquisition of any subsequent asset of his: Rather, Alfred Woyome asserts that it was through him that they came into some certain wealth. Indeed, within one month of Alfred Woyome’s getting to know the Smiths, Alfred Woyome, together with his colleagues in Libya, expended $1.8million in an oil-related deal from which they [the Smiths] were going to benefit. They did not have any financial input whatsoever in the prosecution of this deal except for their local administrative support which has been the case in all the dealings that Alfred Woyome has had with the Smiths until they parted ways. Interestingly enough, just about a year ago, Ray Smith and his wife collected money from Alfred Woyome to pay their workers in m-Powapak, a company in which they both have interests.

A relevant question to ask would be this: Where would the driver of a “very old” car get the wherewithal to do all the foregoing and go on to get the kind of endorsement that Alfred Woyome got from the Libyan authorities to be recommended to the Austrian authorities and subsequently appointed to be the Honorary Vice-Consul?

Source: Thelma Benjamin Freelance Journalist with Wiener Zeitung

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