Feature Article of Sunday, 23 September 2012
Columnist: Sarpong, Justice
The Case Against President Mahama in the Armajaro Cocoa smuggling Scandal
This is a reproduction of the Press conference held on November 10th 2010 by a group
known as The ALLIANCE FOR RESPONSIBLE OFFICE HOLDERS (AFROH)concerning the IMBROGLIO
of President Mahama and Armajaro Holding company. The group through Anas Aremayew
investigation into the cocoa smuggle scandal involving Armajaro Holding company of
Britain alleges that, President Mahama was compromised when he interceded on behalf
of Armajaro to get a ban that had been imposed on them from doing business in Ghana
AFROH PRESS CONFERENCE ON JOHN MAHAMA AND THE ARMAJARO AFFAIRS-FULL RELEASE
AT A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE, ACCRA- WEDNESDAY 10TH
H.E. VICE PRESIDENT JOHN MAHAMA AND THE ARMAJARO AFFAIR
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, this maiden news conference has become more
compelling with the alleged involvement of the Vice-President of the Republic of
Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, in the recent embarrassing lifting of the
ban imposed on Armajaro Ghana Ltd in the Western Region of Ghana. We are therefore
using this maiden opportunity to focus on the conduct of the Second Man of the
It appears, in our fight against corruption, like the Scancem and M&J allegations,
we are sometimes left to rely on an investigation in another country for us to even
have any hint of what took place against our sovereign interest. And, even when
these facts of alleged corruption are made known to us the Government is afraid to
act for fear of hurting their own. The latest in this disturbing trend is, ladies
and gentlemen, the purpose for this news conference.
In its Sunday, 31st October, 2010, edition, The Sunday Times of the United Kingdom
revealed that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, acting on the request of
the Secretary of International Development, Andrew Mitchell, got the British High
Commissioner in Accra to lobby the Castle, the seat of Ghanaâ€™s Presidency, to
overturn a ban imposed against a British company for breaking the laws of the
Republic of Ghana.
A few days later, the British High Commissioner, Nicholas Westcott, accompanied Vice
President John Mahama, to dine with Henry Bellingham, a Minister for Africa at the
UK Foreign office in London and that our Vice President promised to look into the
matter when he returned to Ghana. A few weeks after that, the ban was overturned. In
short, it seems Ghanaâ€™s Vice President allowed his arm to be twisted by officials
of another country, for the benefit of a company from that foreign country whose
employees had broken our laws on smuggling Ghanaâ€™s main export earner and were
being made to pay the price. More worryingly, the owner of that foreign company is
on record as having paid more than $150,000 to the UK Minister, Andrew Mitchell,
personally, and to the Conservative Party.
According to the Sunday Times report, Armajaro problems can be traced back to April
when an undercover reporter expose a smuggling epidemic from Ghana to Ivory Coast
involving security officials and cocoa companies.â€ The Vice President has been on
record to deny any involvement or wrong doing but the following events leading to
how the official ban on Armajaro Ghana Ltd was overturned shows the Vice President
to be deeply involved.
*APRIL 7th 2010*
In April, President Mills, during his walk-about, criticised CEPS for allowing
businesses to evade custom duties, therefore causing Government not to meet its
revenue targets. In that same week, on April 7, dangerous undercover investigations
undertaken by Ghanaâ ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas of the New
Crusading Guide, identifies Armajaro (one of the world largest cocoa commodity
traders owned by British multi-millionaire Anthony Ward) as well as Diabe and
Transroyal as being involved in the multi-million dollar smuggling of cocoa to La
Cote dâ€™Ivoire. The three companies were all banned from trading in cocoa in the
*JULY 1st 2010*
Anthony Ward, Chief Executive of Armajaro Holdings and a Conservative party donor,
writes to UK cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, the man to whom Mr Ward had donated
$63,000, to bring his weight to bear on the Ghana Government. The letter reads:
â€œWe therefore would like to ask you to intervene on our behalf at Presidential
level [in Ghana] to request the ban be lifted with immediate effect.â€ As someone
put, the letter read as if Ghana was still a British colony. With immediate effect
indeed! Even the letter from Mr Ward provided the road map to lobbying the Ghanaian
Presidency. The timing of the letter was such that it will prompt the British
Government to lobby the Vice President in person. The letter suggested that â€œone
potential lobbying opportunity would be a UK-Ghana investment forum in London, which
the Ghanaian Vice President, Mr John Mahama, was due to attend.â€ In fact, the Vice
President was leading the Ghanaian delegation.
Sunday Times report said, Just days after Mitchell read the letter, the Ghanaian
Vice President was INDEED LOBBIED on behalf of Wardâ€™s company by a Foreign Office
Minister at a dinner on the eve of the trade forum.
*JULY 6th 2010*
Department for International Development (DFID) officials, who work under Mr
Mitchell, emailed Wardâ€™s letter to the Foreign Office. The leaked letter reads:
â€œIt will be in your best interest to give this request your urgent attentionâ€.
Five days after the letter was dispatched from Ward to Mitchell, the Minister,
Mitchell, phoned Nicholas Westcott, the U.K High Commissioner in Ghana, for a
briefing on Armajaro. Ambassador Westcott then confirmed to the Minister the details
in Wardâ€™s letter about a forthcoming UK-Ghana trade forum in London. He then began
the process of arranging for the Vice President to meet Mr Henry Bellingham, the
Foreign Office Minister for Africa. According to our sources, Mr John Mahama was
aware of this meeting and the matters to be discussed even before he left Accra for
As an indication of how improper this whole lobbying was, British Civil Servants
raised concerns about the propriety in lobbying the Ghanaian Vice- President at the
London trade forum, as suggested by Wardâ€™s letter. Around this time, Mr Ward,
known as â€œChocfingerâ€ for being a ruthless speculator on cocoa prices, made news
across the business world for buying 240,100 tons of cocoa beans for more than $1
billion to hoard. This jerked the price up for him to quickly offload his hoarded
stock onto the market to make a huge profit, which sent the prices down again. This
is the kind of character that they say our Vice President was helping to get a ban
on his company lifted.
The concerned Foreign Office email reads: â€œIs this something we should lobby on?
Or should the UK Company realise that theyâ€™ve broken the rules and have to pay the
*JULY 7th 2010*
Henry Bellingham, the Foreign Office Minister, in fact dined with John Dramani
Mahama and Ambassador Westcott, and the matter on discussion was importantly
Armajaro. The Junior Minister of Britain met our Vice- President to tell him to
remove the ban on a British company that had broken the laws of Ghana. Leaked UK
Foreign Office memo reporting on the meeting said: â€œThe vice president (John
Mahama) has undertaken to look into it immediately on his returnâ€. *JULY 12th 2010*
The Sunday Times reported,The campaign paid dividends. On July 12, Westcott reported
in an internal memo [obtained by the Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information
Act] that the Ghanaian Vice President was going to look into the ban immediately.
It is this statement that categorically and unambiguously contradicts the statement
from the lips of Vice President John Mahama on Thursday, November 4, with Radio
Ghana that he did not intervene on behalf of the company. This documentary evidence
makes it clear that the Vice President has lied to the people of Ghana. The Vice
President says he asked Henry Bellingham and, presumably, Nicholas Westcott, who was
also at the meeting, to tell Armajaro to petition the appropriate authorities in
Ghana directly and that he would not do anything about it. So, was Mr Westcottâ€™s
recorded account on the meeting, as contained in the leaked internal memo, a figment
of the British diplomatâ€™s imagination? *JULY 14th 2010*
But so pleased were British civil servants about the progress made that on July 14,
UK Foreign Office officials proposed contacting Armajaro. Leaked memo reads:
They might like to know what weâ€™ve done on their behalf.
*AUGUST 2010* If John Mahamaâ€™s meeting played no role in the subsequent lifting of
the ban, then the sequence of events suggest otherwise. Westcott sent an email to
Mitchellâ€™s DFID in August, knowing the Ministerâ€™s interest in the matter,
disclosing that â€œa draft decision made by the Cocoa Board lifting the banâ€ had
been drawn and â€œI hope this will sort the matter.
*SEPTEMBER 8th 2010*
Trade ban on Armajaro in Ghana was lifted in all but one district. *SEPTEMBER 28th,
2010* The Chief Executive Officer of Cocobod, Anthony Fofie, with the Finance
Minister next to him, told journalists at a news conference to announce new producer
price for cocoa that â€œthe ban imposed on three licensed buying companies from
operating in some parts of the country is still in force.â€ The companies he
mentioned then were these same three companies, Armajaro, Diabe and Transroyal. Mr
Fofie went on to say that â€œthe board is yet to review its decision on the case of
the firms involved.â€ So how does the Cocobod explain the email from Ambassador
Westcott in August, a month earlier, that a draft decision had already been taken by
the Cocobod to lift the ban? On what was that draft decision based? This is
important because more than a month later on September 28, the Chief Executive of
Cocobod told journalists that â€œthe Board has been
monitoring the activities of the companies and will make a determination after a
thorough assessment whether there is a commitment on the part of the three to put
mechanisms in place to stop smuggling.â€ According to Cocobod then, it was yet to
see any such commitment.
Yet, according to official documents, by September 8 the ban on Armajaro, at least
had been lifted. This was 20 days before the Chief Executive of Cocobod announced to
the whole country that the ban was still in place. We would also like to know, if
the three bans were lifted at the same time then is Cocobod telling Ghanaians that
the three companies on the same day managed to convince the Board their commitment
to stopping smuggling? If so, why would the CEO of Cocobod lie to Ghanaians? We are
absolutely convinced Cocobod is not telling the truth because; the ban was imposed
on April 6; In August Nicholas Westcott emailed DFID for the attention of Mitchell
that a draft Statement lifting the ban had been made by Cocobod; September 8,
Armajaro is informed by Cocobod that the ban has been lifted; Tuesday September 28
Cocobod, with Finance Minister present holds a Press Conference to announce new
producer price, adding that the ban was still in force. Fofie
said board; â€œis still monitoring activities of the companies and will make a
final determination after thorough assessment whether there was a commitment on the
part of the three to put mechanisms in place to stop the smugglingâ€
Yet on November 8, Cocobod in a Press Statement said â€œAt the Board of Directors
meeting held on Tuesday, 28th September, 2010, the Board of Directors directed that
the ban placed on the three companies from operating in the Western Corridor of
Ghana be lifted in all the areas except the districts where the video footage
captured the involvement of their agentsâ€. We believe that the boss of Cocobod,
Anthony Fofie, has shown himself to lack integrity and does not deserve to be in
charge of a multi-billion dollar trade that has, for nearly hundred years been the
main export earner for our country. HE MUST THEREFORE RESIGN with immediate effect.
We know that Cocobod is seeking to cover up the role that the Vice President played.
But, unfortunately for them, the documentary evidence released by the British
government, through the work of the British Journalist, Marie Woolf, leaves the
players totally uncovered. This is a cover up that should not be allowed to stand in
the interest of Ghana. We are no longer under colonial rule where our public
officials, especially elected officials, feel that they can work in the interest of
a British company through the lobbying of British officials, against the interest of
the people of Ghana. It was to remove us from that bondage that our forefathers
fought for Ghanaâ€™s independence. Kwame Nkrumah will be turning in his grave for
now. This is certainly not Kwame Nkrumahâ€™s Ghana. We cannot celebrate his
Centenary and at the same time denigrate his achievements by selling our national
soul to a foreign interest.
The Vice- President has so far been on record to deny any involvement or wrong doing
but the above events leading to how the official ban on Armajaro Ghana Ltd was
overturned shows the Vice President may be distorting facts. If found to be true
then the Vice-President is working against the sovereign interest of Ghana by
subverting and sabotaging the economic interest of the country on behalf of a
company from another sovereign state.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are also demanding answers to the following:
1. How much money, if any, did John Mahama receive from Anthony Ward to lobby for
him, if the UK Minister who made the phone call to set up the meeting received
2. When was the ban on Armajaro lifted?
3. When was the ban on Diabe and Transroyal lifted?
4. Why were the three companies banned?
5. Why was the ban lifted?
6. We heard John Jinapor, the Spokesperson to the Vice President saying on Metro TV
on Monday, November 8, 2010, that Armajaro and the other companies were â€œbanned
for only one season.â€ We know that a cocoa season begins on 1st October of one year
and ends on 30th September of the following year. This ban took place effectively
during half season but ended before the end of the season. What accounts for this
unusual situation? Or should we say, what accounts for this blatant twist of facts?
7. How much money John Mahama received from Andrew Mitchell, International
Development Secretary who lobbied him on behalf of British Cocoa magnate Andrew Ward
to facilitate the lifting of the ban? As we speak, the British International
Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has been referred to the United Kingdom
Parliamentary Standards Watch Dog Committee.
8. Did John Mahama and Alhaji Dramani Egala, Deputy Chief Executive in charge of
operations hold a meeting on the day the ban on the companies were lifted and what
message did he convey to the Board?
Finally we are also serving notice that we have almost completed the process; and
will soon send this matter to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative
Justice (CHRAJ) for a thorough investigation based on the facts in our possession.
We thank you for your audience and invite your questions.
.................................... (Mahama Haruna) Chairman