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General News of Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Source: Tony Lithur

JJ Bribe Allegation: Open Letter to Crusading Guide

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July 23, 2007
ACCRA Dear Sir

… In Millions Of Dollars From Norwegian Cement Giant
- Reveals An Ongoing Court Proceeding In Norway"

We act as Solicitors for Former President, Jerry John Rawlings, and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, whose attention have been drawn to the front page headlines of the 20th July – 26th July, 07 edition of your newspaper.

You may disagree with us, but we think that your article may have been culled from the front page article of the 21-22 April, 2007 Edition of the Norwegian Newspaper, "Dagens Naeringsliv". Our clients have informed us that they had received news of the same publication sometime ago and are taking steps to respond to it appropriately.

The only reason for their delay in responding was their desire to find out whether or not there is another angle to the story which, though unexplained at the time, would subsequently become apparent. With your current publication, that angle is becoming clearer and strengthens our clients’ resolve to pursue the nature of the response they had prepared.

Before we go into some detail about the contents of the article, our clients have instructed us to respond to the opening words of your article that "Findings of painstaking investigations by "Crusading GUIDE" concerning the hidden financial assets and other properties of ex-President Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu seem to be gaining corroboration and credibility."

Our client has instructed us to say, in direct response to that statement, that it may have become apparent to the Ghanaian public that the Crusading GUIDE’s so-called "painstaking investigations" have not yielded any results, perhaps not because of lack of industry, but because there really are no such "hidden financial assets".

Former President Rawlings has specifically asked us to say that he threw a challenge to the present Government and the world intelligence community to investigate and make public any findings showing that during his tenure of office as President of the Republic of Ghana, he had stolen or kept and stashed away money in secret banks any monies belonging to the people of Ghana. To date, the silence has been, paradoxically, deafening.

The background to the story in the Norwegian Newspaper, from which you may have obtained your story, is as follows:

Scancem manufactures cement and used to be owned by a company different from its present owners. When the new owners took over the company, they took the view that monies alleged to have been paid as bribe to certain persons in the company’s bid to control their markets, were in fact misappropriated by the then African Director of Scancem, Tor Egil Khelsaas for his own use. After extensive internal investigations (which confirmed the company’s initial suspicions), the company brought an action against Tor Egil Khelsaas presumably for theft.

The case of the new owners of the company, based on the result of their extensive internal inquiries, was that those monies were in fact not paid to the recipients, or at least not all the monies were paid out; and that Tor had pocketed them. It was in a bid to explain away this allegation of theft that evidence was given on behalf of Tor Egil Khelsaas by Gerhard Heiburg, mentioning names of persons that they alleged the monies had been paid to. In answer to the question posed in the headlines of your article, i.e. whether or not our clients took kickback, the Norwegian Court did not make findings that support the allegations made during trial, that our client, or any other person for that matter, did in fact receive any monies from Tor Egil Khelsaas. Indeed, your own quotation of judge’s conclusions are clear to the effect that the court found it difficult to conclude monies had indeed been paid by Tor Egil Khelsaas and received by the persons who were alleged to have been paid the bribe.

The only reason why the new owners of Scancem did not win the case against Tor Egil Khelsaas was this difficulty in determining whether or not the monies that he said he had paid to certain recipients, did in fact get to them. The new owners of Scancem are dissatisfied with the decision because of they are convinced that Tor Egil Khelsaas stole the monies. They have therefore appealed against the judgment. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on or about 9th September this year, and our clients are following it with very keen interest.

What is clear from the Norwegian publication is that the journalists who wrote the article claimed they conducted their own independent investigations on the subject and traveled all the way to Ghana for interviews. Presumably it was at that time that they interviewed Mr. P. V. Obeng. Surprisingly, however, they failed to interview our clients, for some reason that is quite baffling. We have noted the coincidence also that you have also interviewed Mr. P. V. Obeng before breaking your story, and yet made no attempt to contact our client.

In direct response to any insinuations of guilt that may be contained in your story, or any conclusions of guilt that may be drawn by readers of your newspaper, our clients have instructed us to respond as follows:

They have not, and neither of them has, received any monies from Scancem. Nor have they ever requested or been offered any money by Scancem. Any suggestion by anybody that either or both of them have received any monies either directly or indirectly, from Scancem is therefore untrue and is merely an attempt to tarnish their image and reputation;

Former President Rawlings has specifically instructed to state that the process that was initiated on June 4, 1999 had as its underpinnings, integrity incorruptibility and accountability. They are attributes that guided him during his nearly two decades in office. To him, integrity is not merely a slogan, but a way of life. People died during the process and others sacrificed their lives for it. It would have been a betrayal of the worst kind if he had, during his tenure as a president, taken bribe from anybody for whatever purpose. He would not have been able to live with himself. He has also instructed me to say that if this is another grand scheme to tarnish his image and reputation, it will not be the first time, and possibly not the last. He will continue to speak about corruption, graft and lack integrity wherever he finds them, whether in Ghana or elsewhere, because those are vices he has always fought, and will continue to fight, against.

Finally, we rely on Article 162(6) of the Constitution, 1992 in requesting that you publish this rejoinder, unedited, in your next publication, and do sincerely hope, that in the interest of fairness to the reading public and our client, you will give it the same prominence that you gave the original article.

Yours faithfully
Tony Lithur
Cc 1. His Excellency Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings
2. Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings

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