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General News of Thursday, 14 January 2010

Source: The Enquirer

Kufuor’s Boys Confess @ Kosmos-E.O. Probe


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-As they choke on evidence and sing like canaries
The sweetheart deals in the oil sector, which spotted powerful oil barons, whose footprints leads to the office of former President John Agyekum kufuor, is about to turn sour.

The ‘Kufour boys’ who are about to face about 25 charges, bordering on criminality and blatant falsification of public records in a mad rush to control Ghana’s black gold, are now choking on evidence.

Sources familiar with the workings of the joint investigation between the US government and Ghana has told The Enquirer that despite misleading PR gimmicks in sections of the media, “the culprits in the case are singing like canaries” in the intercontinental probe, which has untied the bolts and knots of the Es and the Os of Ghana’s oil sector.

Already, The Enquirer has learnt that the combined investigative powers of both the US Department of Justice and Ghana’s Attorney General’s Department in the ongoing probe of Kosmos Energy and EO Group, has led to several key targets in the center of the investigation confessing to their criminal conduct.

The Enquirer has learnt also that, several top government level officers in the previous government, including one of President Kufuor’s Chief of Staff and key sector Ministers, as well as the dismissed Country Manager of Kosmos Energy, have taken turns in answering probing questions from investigators.

US sources say, the joint investigations, which at one point involved collaborative efforts between the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of Ghana has led to the interception of several documents, including huge electronic files.

One particular computer, which US federal agents say was used by George Owusu, the country Representative of Kosmos Energy has not yet been traced. George Owusu was fired by Kosmos Energy soon after he gave a signed statement to investigators, which Kosmos felt was too implicating.

Back in Ghana, the Kosmos-EO probe, which is steered by the Attorney-General Betty Mould-Iddrisu, has uncovered very juicy evidence, and insiders are talking about a very explosive docket.

Duke Amanianpong, a California-based lawyer, working for the Ghanaian investigation has said that from where he stands and from the point of law, Ghana’s Attorney-General had accumulated “enough evidence of criminal culpability to bring charges against the EO group and its directors”.

THE SMOKING GUN

The entire investigation into the Kosmos-EO Group deal, began with a 2.5-million-dollar investigation in 2006, with a paper trail in the USA, after an investigation report filed at the US Department of Justice raised red flags. Besides the nitty-gritty of the law, side bars in the investigation reveal many of the culprits in the deal to be political allies of John Kufuor, the immediate past president, which suggests strongly his office might have been exploited in the deal as at one point the Castle was allegedly drawn in the award of the petroleum license to Kosmos and EO in a record time.

The charges against the culprits would include “causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, and making false declarations to public agencies”, Financial Times, quoting a source at the attorney-general’s office has said. Ghanaian officials suspect that EO used its access to top officials in the former government to gain a hold on the country’s most promising offshore oil block and win more favourable terms both for itself and Kosmos.

EO’s directors, according to a Financial Times report are silent over suggestions of their criminal behavior, except to say that they had played an important role in opening Ghana’s oil industry, and had done so lawfully and without using “improper influence.”

Kosmos said allegations of wrongdoing against it were “untrue and unsubstantiated.”

Kosmos, who is also being probed by the US Department of Justice, say Ghana wants to secure a share of the profits by forcing them to sell their stake in the oil concession at a knock-down price to GNPC, the state oil group, which could then sell it to the highest bidder.

“Some factions in the country are clearly seeking to spread rumours and untruths in an attempt to undermine the company so that its assets can be [pushed] below fair market value,” Kosmos said.

An industry expert dismissed what he described as the ‘noise of Kosmos,’ wondering why they have not taken their case to arbitration if they believed there was any arm-twisting or wrongdoing on the part of GNPC or the country for that matter.

GNPC has rejected claims of fronting for China in the bid to buy out Kosmos, who illegally gave access to GNPC data, acquired at great cost and corporate effort, to several foreign oil prospectors in contravention of the petroleum agreement.

EO GROUP

Investigators also say that Kosmos’ connection to the probe, from the stand point of the law, is that of complicity in what they say is the criminal behavior of their partners, the EO Group.

EO was set up by a Houston-based businessman, George Owusu, who was Kosmos’s representative in Accra and Kwame Bawuah Edusei, a doctor and supporter of Ex-President Kufuor, who later appointed him as ambassador to Washington. The group has a 3.5 per cent stake in the offshore oil block, where Kosmos first found commercial quantities of oil in 2007. EO, whose stake could be worth about $200m, initiated the deal which brought Kosmos into Ghana three years earlier.

In return, Kosmos met EO’s share of exploration and development costs by paying for the share of EO Group as a handshake for all the “work done” Who is behind EO?

EO was created by two US-based Ghanaians. Kwame Bawuah Edusei, the E in the company. He is a medical doctor, a stalwart of the former ruling New Patriotic Party(NPP), and according to his political allies a friend of ex-president Kufuor. He was appointed ambassador first to Geneva and then Washington, where he served until January last year.

George Owusu, the O in the group, was a Houston-based businessman who worked for oil companies including as a commodities manager for Royal Dutch Shell. Until recently, he was also the representative for Kosmos in Ghana.

The two men played a central role in bringing the Texan company to Ghana in 2004, after initial stuttering exploration activities under the Kufuor administration, after inheriting vibrant exploratory activities in 2001. The two moved the company from Ghana to the Cayman Islands, where it is registered as KG (after Kwame and George) shortly before the 2008 elections ended in opposition victory a year ago.

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