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General News of Thursday, 24 March 2011

Source: The Enquirer

Sahara Oil Dupes Govt

As Company Evades Taxes Running Into Millions Of Cedis

By Freddy Nyarko

It is now clear that Sahara Oil, the oil firm that illegally used a fake company, ‘Refinee Petroplus B.V.I, to transact an oil supply contract with the Government of Ghana via the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), has swindled the state of funds, conservatively running into millions of cedis.

Sahara which claims to have imported, the ‘fraud-laden’ 600,000 barrels of brass crude oil worth $48m, cleverly evaded statutory payments (taxes and levies) meant for the Ghanaian government by using an unregistered, unlicensed, fake-addressed and completely phony Refinee Petroplus for the execution of the deal with TOR. The money lost to the state involves taxes, statutory payments, licensing fees and other levies that Refinee Petroplus, was supposed to pay to the state of Ghana, for transacting business with TOR, had it been a genuine company. The Enquirer has confirmed that both the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) were denied the statutory payments that companies wanting to trade in the Ghanaian petroleum industry are mandated to pay.

By using a phony company name, Sahara executives did not pay all levies including even the GH?20,000 stipulated registration fees required by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) Law.

According to the NPA Law, Act 691 (2005), the NPA is mandated to charge registration fees, on behalf of the government of Ghana, on companies wanting to do business in the Ghanaian petroleum sector.

The GNPC was also denied the opportunity of charging the required petroleum levies which it is statutorily bound to slap on oil companies engaged in the supply of crude oil to Ghana.

Both GNPC and the NPA are said to be waking up to the realization that it had been swerved much needed funds and are contemplating on the next line of action needed to be taken to rake in the management of Sahara.

Castle sources have confirmed to The Enquirer that the scandals of Sahara Oil, via Refinee Petroplus, evading tax as well as others, is boldly captured in a comprehensive report that the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) submitted to President John Evan Atta Mills, last week.

Contrary to Sahara’s claim that the Refinee Petroplus is based in Geneva and went ahead to give an address to that effect, investigations proved that such an address does not exist. A local address provided by Sahara on behalf of Refinee Petroplus, was also found to be non-existent. When questioned, Sahara Oil is quoted to have admitted providing such an address, explaining that it was an ‘intended address’ which they (Sahara) gave to Refinee Petroplus. The Presidency is yet to take a decision as to whether to retrieve the lost funds from Sahara Oil, with all the necessary regulatory fines included, or to embark on a possible prosecution of Sahara Oil executives for doing business with an illegal company name and evading tax, as a result. Sahara’s top brass of executives such as Wale Ojibade of Sahara-Nigeria, Lekan Ogun Dowole, Dotun Osiayemi - MD Sahara-Ghana, Idowu Ogunkanmi and Alister Morison, all of Sahara Group, including Yvette Ayele Foli, Marketing Officer of Sahara Ghana, actively participated in meetings with TOR and purported to be officials of Refinee Petroplus BVI.

Sahara faked the company logo of European oil giant, Petroplus Holdings, manufactured an address in British Virgin Islands, (which has an address system that is transient).

Sahara Oil has again admitted that it prepared complimentary cards for their Nigeria-based official Alistar Morrison and Ghanaian Marketing Officer, Yvette Ayele Foli. It further designed and released letterheads of Refinee Petroplus, using the faked logos of Petroplus Holdings, the Swiss-based refinery. According to sources of The Enquirer, Madam Yvette Ayele Foli was used as a pawn by her bosses especially Mr. OGUNKAMI who is the Sahara Trade Officer in Ghana. Investigations found out that she was coached to pose as a County Representative of the fake Refinee Petroplus.

According to information gleaned from the BNI, Sahara Oil, knowing that it is not in the good books of the current government decided to form the fraudulent, Refinee Petroplus in order to outwit TOR to secure the 48-million-dollar deal, which involved the supply of 600,000 barrels of brass crude oil.

This reason appears to have been accepted by the BNI, which has completed its investigations into the matter and submitted its report to the National Security. The Enquirer sources within the BNI, have confirmed that Petroplus Refinee is not a genuine company.

In swindling TOR of the $48million, Sahara oil got its Marketing Officer, Yvette Ayele Foli, to act as the Country Representative of the non-existent Refinee Petroplus B.V.I. Limited. The fraudsters then used on their fake documents, the logo of Petroplus Holdings, an internationally-recognised oil company based in Switzerland, to create an impression to TOR officials that the phony Refinee Petroplus is a subsidiary of the real Petroplus, which has never done business in Africa.

The Enquirer checks at the Registrar-General’s Department indicate Refinee Petroplus is not registered as a company in Ghana. The local address used by the company is also fake. The false address is Refinee Petroplus B.V.I, William Theodore House,18 Josis boz Tito Avenue, Switch Back Road, Cantonments, Accra. Despite, the glaring evidence of falsifications, TOR disappointingly failed to do due diligence on the company and entered into a bogus Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) with the sham Refinee Petroplus on August 18, 2010. The contract, a copy of which is in the possession of The Enquirer was signed by Mr. Ato Ampiah, Acting Managing Director at TOR and Yvette Foli, the so-called country Representative of Refinee Petroplus.

A vital item missing in the SPA, is the banking details of the Seller (Refinee Petroplus) as well as the Buyer (TOR) of the 600,000 barrels of Brent crude oil. According to industry experts, The Enquirer spoke to, it is unusual for the banking details of particularly the seller to be absent in the contract. . This is because payment made on such transaction can only be made through the banks.