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General News of Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Source: The Herald

Ex-Finance Minister In $31 Million Dirty Deal

Ex-Minister of Finance Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, might currently be having sleepless nights for being careless with state asset, resulting in the loss of some Gh¢51 million, approximately US$31 million, to the state, according to Police investigators.

The three Osei brothers -Dr. Akoto Osei, D.K. Osei, Secretary to former President John Agyekum Kufuor, and Albert Osei, the senior of the Osei’s and a former director of SIAT Ghana Ltd and GOPDC- a police investigative report suggest, hijacked the powers of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) to plot and succeeded in selling Ghana’s Oil Palm Plantation to a Belgian Company at a very ridiculous price, from US$18 million to US$3.6 million.

Oil Palm fetches hundreds of millions of US Dollars for Malaysia, and Ghana could have reaped a fortune, but for the Osei brothers, the investigators told The Herald.

All documents on the case, including police investigative reports, have been handed over to the Attorney-General, Mr. Martin Amidu, to review, and The Herald has been informed that Dr. Akoto Osei and Albert Osei, will be appearing before court in a matter of days, to rescue themselves from a possible 10-year jail term, specified by the law, if convicted.

The Osei brothers, have been charged under the Public Property Protection Decree of the Supreme Military Council (SMCD 140) of 1977, and are to face criminal charges, alongside a Belgium national, Pierre Vandebeeck, Chairman and Managing Director of SIAT sa, majority shareholders of the Oil Palm plantation, one Mr. J.C.E. Inkumsah, ex-Managing Director and Mr. Ntrekwa, both Ghanaian board members.

Their junior brother, D.K. Osei popularly called “Dekay,” has not been charged, although he played a major role in the matter. The investigators believe that he acted on behalf of his boss, ex-President John Kufuor, by signing a letter selling Ghana’s 20 per cent interest in the Ghana Oil Palm Developments Company Limited (GOPDC).

Dr. Akoto Osei, according to the investigators, ignored genuine advice from his own technocrats, threw away caution and rational behavior, and continued to advance the divestiture process even though it was obvious that state secrecy had been tampered with, information had been leaked out and communicated to the Belgians in a most bizarre manner.

Officials of SIAT sa and SIAT Ghana Limited, including Pierre Vandebeeck, described as a worthy man with a private aircraft which flies to the plantation straight from Belgium, are said to be moving on the corridors of power, knocking on every door and begging for amicable settlement of the case.

Vandebeeck’s company accounts are reported to have been frozen by the Economic and Organized (EOCO) Crime in October 2010.

The fact of the case is that in May 2002, Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), in compliance with statutory requirement, appointed GIMPA Consultancy Services to value, negotiate and conclude sale of Ghana’s 20% shares in GOPDC, located at Kwae and Okumaning in the Kwaebibirem District of the Eastern Region measuring over 21, 000 hectares.

By September 2004, GIMPA arrived at a value of US$18 million, but SIAT offered to buy the shares for $1,050,000 which it later increased to $2,000,000 without supplying the basis for arriving at the figures

GIMPA Consultancy Services requested justification for figures and also information on Feasibility report submitted to African Development Bank for a $7.1 million loan in 2003, but management of GOPDC refused to comply, and in July 2004, the Board of GOPDC recommended to the shareholders the appointment of a new valuer after refusing to accept GIMPA’s US$18 million value as credible.

In a letter to GIMPA Consultancy Services in December 2004, SIAT Ghana Limited recommended the appointment of an independent valuer, selected from among international auditing firms operating in Ghana, and insisted that any action by DIC must first be approved by GOPDC Board.

Shortly thereafter, Albert Osei, the senior brother to Dr. Akoto Osei and former Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, was appointed a Director of SlAT Ghana Limited and GOPDC in 2006 by a letter of July 2006 from Dr. A. Akoto Osei, at the Ministry assumed the direct role in the valuation, negotiation and sale of Ghana’s 20% shares in GOPDC On December 30, 2006, DIC terminated the appointment of GIMPA Consulting Services under strange circumstances.

Prior to the termination, the Managing Director of GOPDC, an appointee of SIAT, on October 31, 2006, sent out letters inviting firms to submit proposals on the valuation of the 20% shares in GOPDC, and although the proposals submitted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) did not satisfy the terms of reference, GOPDC (not DIC) awarded the contract to PWC to undertake the valuation of the 20% shares.

Both DIC and MOFEP objected to the draft engagement letter which showed that PWC was to conduct an Indicative Valuation but PWC, despite objections from MOFEP and DIC, went ahead to conduct the Indicative Valuation with a final value of a meager GH¢4.35 million, even though records provided by GOPDC in May 2005 to DIC showed that the equity of GOPDC had risen.

Dr. Akoto Osei unlawfully assumed the statutory authority reserved for the DIC (Act 326 (7), and appointed a Technical Team at MOFEP to negotiate the PWC valuation even though it was an indicative valuation which his Ministry had strongly objected to.

Days later, SIAT Gh. Ltd appointed Albert Osei Country Director of SIAT sa, to negotiate with MOFEP for the sale of the shares on behalf of SIAT Gh. Ltd

In the course of negotiations, representatives of SIAT Gh. Ltd., led by Mr. Albert Osei and Mr. J.C.E. Inkumsah, the Managing Director, gave falsified information to the Technical Team, flouting provisions under Act 326 (13).

The SIAT Team insisted that SIAT had refunded the 8.0 billion cedis ($1,686,856) GOPDC paid to DIC for the 20% shares. They insisted that SIAT Gh. Ltd was holding the shares in trust for the employees/out-growers. The SIAT representatives did not disclose to the Committee that it was with their insistence that PWC limited the valuation exercise to Indicative Valuation instead of carrying out full assets revaluation exercise to establish the net worth of GOPDC

The Chief Director of MOFEP, not very comfortable with the method adopted in this particular transaction, reminded the deputy finance minister, of the other options of either putting the shares on the stock exchange or look at the interest shown by Appiah-Menka, a businessman, in the said shares with a view of securing a better deal out of the sale

Chairman of SIAT Gh. Ltd, Pierre Vandebeeck wrote on October 20, 2008, a letter directly to Dr. Akoto Osei, addressed through the Presidency instead of through MOFEP, accepting his offer to transfer GOG’s 20% shares in GOPDC to SIAT Gh. Ltd at GH¢5.0 million.

This was at a time when the Technical Committee had not submitted its final report.

Even though Dr. Akoto Osei denied that he wrote any such letter, he woefully failed to cause an investigation to be carried out on possible leakage of classified state secret to Vanderbeeck.

Dr. Akoto Osei, in addition, failed to insist that Pierre Vanderbeeck produce the letter that had been responded to. The investigators found that Dr. Akoto Osei ignored the interventions of his Chief Director and technical team, and instructed the DIC on October 23, 2008, to offer the shares for GHc 5.5 million (i.e. US$4,719,005) to SIAT Gh. Ltd.

Dr. Akoto Osei indicated in his letter that GOG had completed the negotiation for the sale of the 20% shares, and approved the sale of the shares to SIAT Gh. Ltd.

Without approval by the DIC, the Executive Secretary of DIC went ahead to seek Presidential approval for the sale of the 20% shares for an amount of GH¢5.5 million, and got an approval from the Secretary to the President, Mr. D.K. Osei, another brother to Dr. A. Akoto Osei.

The police investigators discovered that the sale of GOG’s 20% equity shares in GOPDC in December 2008 was not open, and that it was done under false premise.

Messrs P. Vanderbeeck, Albert Osei and J.C.E. Inkumsah, in collaboration with Dr. A. Akoto Osei, employed all types of tactics, including exploiting insider information plus ministerial authority and provision of false information, to master-mind the execution of the fraudulent divestiture of the shares.

The sale of the shares must, therefore be annulled, the investigators recommended. Section 7 of PNDCL 326 mandates only the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) as the only body permitted by law to sell Ghana’s interest in companies but this has been violated by Dr. A. Akoto Osei, the team noted.

Dr. Akoto Osei, the investigators noted, ignored genuine advice from his own technocrats, threw away caution and rational behavior, and continued to advance the divestiture process even though it was obvious that state secrecy had been tampered with, information had been leaked out and communicated to Mr. Vanderbeeck in a most bizarre manner.

This behaviour, they said, offends Section 2 of the Public Property Protection Act, Act 1977 (SMCD 140) and Section 127 of Securities Industry Law 1993 (PNDL 333)

The investigators also concluded that Mr. Pierre Vandebeeck, Chairman of SIAT sa, must be held liable under Section3 and 5 of the Public Property Protection Act, Act 1977 (SMCD 140), and Mr. Albert Osei, Country Director of SIAT sa and Mr. J.C.E. Inkumsah, former Managing Director, should be held liable for Deceit of Public Officer with intent to gain undue advantage over the state (PNDCL 326 (13) and SMCD 140.

Prior to the sale of GOG’s 60% shares in GOPDC in 1995, the company declared profits and paid dividends between 1995 to 2003, for the period,GOPDC declared dividends totaling 39,240,000,000 billion cedis (US$11,473,804).