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General News of Friday, 16 October 2009

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Press Statement By Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey

Sometime last week a radio station broadcast a bribery scandal involving Mabey & Johnson and some former officials of the past NDC Government, including myself, and thereafter other media houses, ran with the same story. I found the story laughable and so I decided to ignore it and treat it with the contempt that it deserved. However, I have realized that those who consider me an enemy have decided to drag my name in the mud and to destroy my hard earned reputation. In addition, my family, friends and loved ones have become so concerned that I feel compelled to break my silence, clear my name and set the records straight.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the UK allegedly conducted an investigation into an alleged bribery scandal which involved Mabey & Johnson in several countries including Jamaica, Angola, Mozambique and Ghana. In the SFO documents available to us, Mabey & Johnson claimed that it made corrupt payments in Angola, Jamaica and Mozambique. In the same documents, the company made it clear that “payments made in Ghana were not directly related to projects or contracts executed in Ghana”.

The SFO alleged that the new Directors of Mabey & Johnson have confessed that the company paid me bribe whilst the old Directors who worked on the Ghana projects at the material time have denied paying any bribe to any Ghanaian official. Nevertheless, some media houses have chosen to tow the line of the SFO and the new Directors because that suits their purpose.

I wish to make it clear that I, George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, have never taken a bribe and, by the grace of God, will never ever take a bribe because I believe it is tantamount to blackmail, extortion and stealing, and this, certainly, is not my nature. Once again, I have never taken a bribe from Mabey & Johnson and have never taken a bribe from any one or company since I started working in the Public Service.

It is important to set the record straight. It does appear that people are confusing Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey of 2009 and Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey of 1989 to 1996. I had never been a Minister of state in my life until I was appointed one in February, 2009, by His Excellency the President, President John Evans Atta-Mills. During the period under consideration, that is, between 1989 and 1996, I was not a

Minister, a Deputy Minister or Chief Director at the Ministry of Roads and Highways which awarded the contracts for the construction of bridges to Mabey & Johnson, and so I did not have the power to or influence the award of those contracts to Mabey & Johnson. Certainly, therefore, it stands to reason that I could not have been bribed by that company. Between 1989 and 1995 I was simply a head of a unit at the Ministry of Finance, and became a Director in 1996, and never had the power to or influence award contracts, and so there could not be any basis for any one to influence me to award him or her a contract.

As Head of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Finance, my staff and I proffered legal advice to the Ministry, reviewed and negotiated agreements and ensured that all conditions precedent to the effectiveness of agreements, such as seeking cabinet approval and parliamentary ratification, procuring legal opinion from the Attorney General`s Department, and Bank of Ghana`s guarantee to securitize loans ratified by Parliament, were met to enable the agreement to become effective. These, among others, were routine activities that my staff and I undertook. In reviewing all the documents relating to Mabey & Johnson, my staff and I never did anything different from the normal nor did anything wrong or dishonest.

It is unbelievable that some people have taken the Prosecution`s Opening Note, which, at best, is a Note full of unsubstantiated allegations (prepared by the SFO) hook, line and sinker as if it was a reasoned and determined judgment, and have quoted from it extensively against me. This, indeed, is not only pathetic and gross dishonesty, but a grand deception. I am appealing to all Ghanaians, no matter their political persuasion to critically look at the issue on its merit (that is devoid of any political coloration in a bid to score political points. Since when has a prosecution case become a judgment to be cited against a party who has not had the opportunity to respond to the prosecution case, and since when has a foreign investigative body`s report, which has been prepared without interrogating accused persons on another foreign land been used as a basis to demand the prosecution of that party? This, certainly, is most unfortunate and unfair.

The unfairness and viciousness of this is demonstrated by the devious reference by the SFO`s Opening Note to the ambiguous and open-ended offence of causing financial loss to the state when it stated that my conviction and that of Mr. Kwame Peprah under that offence reflected “the culture of government corruption at the time”. If this is not sinister then it is borne out of gross ignorance because the trial judge in his judgment made it clear that our trial was not a trial of corruption, bribery, stealing or fraud. Secondly, the Note referred to me as the “Director of Legal and International Affairs at

the Ministry of Finance”. I have never been a Director of the Legal and International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance because there has never been any such department of the Ministry. Rather I was the Director of the Legal, Private Sector and Financial Institutions Department. This may look a moot point, but this and the sinister reference to the offence of causing financial loss demonstrate the lack of professionalism and thoroughness with which the investigation by the SFO was conducted.

Mabey and Johnson entered into a plea bargain agreement with the Prosecution (SFO), and based on that agreement a ruling was delivered by the Southwark Crown Court on 25th September, 2009. This ruling was based on a subjective case and allegations made by the new Directors of Mabey and Johnson against people living in a different jurisdiction who were not given the opportunity to respond to these allegations and to clear themselves. This, clearly, breaches the tenet of Natural Justice, which requires that a person against whom allegations are made must be given the right to respond to those charges and to defend himself or herself. If the British SFO has decided not to give us a platform to defend ourselves, then I dare say, it has no business mentioning our names.

Has the concept of Natural Justice been buried in English jurisprudence, or is it applicable to only English men and women and not extended to Ghanaians as well? Or is it because the Prosecution Opening case and the one-sided ruling are from UK they must be right and acceptable at all cost. We all owe it an obligation to ensure that we do not stultify our promising and young democracy. I wish to state categorically that I was neither given the chance by the SFO to respond to any charges it leveled against me nor a defendant in the case of Regina v Mabey & Johnson Limited. Consequently, the judgment in that case does not affect me or my colleagues in any way and has no relevance to us.

This notwithstanding, some people still will want to stretch the Mabey and Johnson ruling to cover my colleagues and I. Again it is important that we as Ghanaians sometimes set aside our political differences and look at this case on its merits. We live in interesting and evil times, and it is my fervent belief and conviction that the time has come for some of us to rise to the occasion and fight the social canker of evil men always wanting to destroy decent men and women.

May I reiterate that the issue at stake is not just an allegation of bribery or limited to a smear campaign against Sipa Yankey and others. The issue is about NATURAL JUSTICE FOR ALL, and I am committed to champion the search for justice to ensure that never again will a Ghanaian be treated so unfairly and with disdain the way some of us have been subjected to. This I pledge to the good people of Ghana as I endeavor to clear my good name.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the good people of this country for their support and encouragement and prayers for me. It is my prayer that the Good Lord will continue to bless our dear country.