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General News of Friday, 12 August 2005

Source: Investigations by Dominic Jale from Berlin and Accra.

German Embassy Saga: Costly flirtation with con man

WHY THE ?HACKMAN? WAS BOOTED OUT
? Provident fund of mining giant plundered to pay contractor
...Minister breached procurement procedure

THE cloak of secrecy surrounding the controversy over the execution of a multi-million euro relocation and renovation contract to Ghana?s Berlin mission in Germany, which has already caused embarrassment to the nation, has been blown apart.

Extensive investigations into matters of significant financial national interest have led to the trail of the man perceived as the ?butcher? of the private press.

The renovation deal caused severe embarrassment to the Presidency and provoked dismay among the nearly 100,000 Ghanaian residents in Germany, when a contractor, who executed the renovation project, held the Ghana Government to ransom and refused to hand over the keys to the mission. It is believed that this might have led in no small way, to the then Foreign Minister, Hon. Hackman Owusu Agyeman being pulled from his perch as the high-ranking Minister he was, to the lower-rated Minister of Works and Housing.

The Paper learnt that Dous Architektur, a construction firm that was engaged to execute the project, refused to hand over the keys to the mission for almost six months after executing the project.

The contractor?s action was on the grounds that the Government of Ghana had failed to pay for the project.

However, Chronicle sources at the seat of government have it that, as at the time the contractor was refusing to hand over the keys to the authorities over the payment, Ghana had effected payment to the contractor months earlier.

This instigated an investigation, which produced a shocking finding - the money really never reached the contractor. It had vanished in transit from Accra to Berlin! The ubiquitous Chronicle of course, got wind of it.

As the paper delved into the Berlin Mission affairs, it emerged that Premier Resources, a consulting firm owned by a certified conman, Mr. Alexander Asiedu, who was alleged to have been hand-picked by Hon. Hackman Owusu Agyemang, as a consultant to the project, could better explain to Ghanaians where the money was locked up.

The paper learnt further that Premier Resources was engaged as a consultant for the project without any due diligence into the firm?s background.

After payment by the government, insiders said Asiedu used the money meant for the contractor for his ?own things? and had to be chased for months until he defrauded Anglogold Ashanti to the tune of $1million before he transferred part of that money to Dous Architektur, the peeved contractor.

The genesis of the Berlin mission affairs was when the government, after assuming office, decided to move the nation?s German Mission from Bonn to Berlin, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The government therefore acquired an edifice at Number 19 Stavangerstrass, Berlin, to be converted into the mission premises.

v At the end of the day, a Berlin-based construction firm, Dous Architektur, was picked to execute the multi-billion cedi project, with Asiedu?s Premier Resources serving as the consultant to the project despite being a well?known con man in the international arena.

However, when the paper reached Mr. Akwasi Osei Adjei, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, he debunked the claim that the contractor had refused to hand over the keys of the Mission after completion of the project.

The deputy minister had even refused to disclose the actual cost of the project, insisting, The Chronicle told him the motive behind the enquiries.

According to the Deputy Minister, all payments were made directly to the contractor and at no point was any channeled through the consultant to have allowed anybody to withhold payment meant for the contractor.

He noted that, what might have delayed the commissioning of the Mission that raised concerns by some people, had to do with the retention fees and other related issues.

?Since this issue has already been dealt with, why do you want to rake it again? You are now telling me there was a problem which has already been solved, so if there is no motive behind what you are doing, what is news about this?? he questioned.

When The Chronicle reached the Berlin Mission, Mrs. Addo, the confidential Secretary to the Ambassador, linked the paper to Mr. Ken Kanda, the second Consulate who said even though he had also heard that after the completion of the project, the contractor had refused to hand over the keys to the authorities, but could not tell what led to that action.

He promised to brief his boss, Hon. Roland Issifu Alhassan, about the paper?s enquiry and get back to us but later directed the paper to speak to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Multiple efforts, including visits to Hackman?s office for an interview, did not yield any positive results.

The paper went the extra mile, dispatching a questionnaire to him, so that he could take his time and write his responses. The Minister, who has hired respected counsel, Mr. Yonni Kulendi, to pursue multi-billion defamation libel actions against a number of newspapers, tried very hard to dodge The Chronicle.

He called the editor to complain about portions of the questionnaire and still failed to respond, but informed the editor that he was traveling.

Since his return, other papers skirted around the story but he has still failed to respond.

By press time yesterday, three weeks since this reporter began to seek his responses to the issues, he had still not answered the questionnaire, though he has acquired a reputation for nailing reporters who write defamatory stories about him, without contacting.

Chronicle gathered that in 2003, the Anglogold Ashanti Employees Provident Fund, was lured to invest $1million (about ?9 billion) in CTI Tech Limited, established by Asiedu as one of the majority shareholders.

CTI Tech Ltd was to provide Call Center Services, Data processing and Information Technology-related services.

Even though on paper, the business was laudable, it was unknown to Anglogold, that Aseidu had his own agenda.

During the investment, Anglogold agreed that two of its officers, Mr. Martin Awuku Ahorney and Addae Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, trustees of the provident fund be made signatories to the account before any withdrawal at the SG-SSB Ring Road Central Branch.

Surprisingly, Asiedu dribbled the two signatories from Anglogold and instituted himself as the sole signatory. This paved way for him to plunder the funds. From July 2003, he managed to transfer about $208,814.37, followed it up with more, till his indebtedness to Duos Architektur was retired.

Meanwhile, the Provident fund of the workers remain unpaid, and there appears to be real and perceived hints of a big, strong hand blocking access to Alex Asiedu a most accomplished conman, whose exploits reach the length and breadth of the country and beyond. MORE ANON!