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General News of Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Source: The Enquirer

US & Ghana In Diplomatic Row

...Energy Minister & Atto Ahwoi denied visa.
..Govt. Fingers oil Politics

There is a growing nerve racking diplomat anxiety between some top ranks of the Ghana government towards the US Embassy in Accra, resulting in suspicion that the US government is consciously targeting some key government officials for standing in the way of American interest in Ghana.

On the controversy scale, the row has reached almost showdown levels, with some key government officials threatening to boycott travels to the US.

There are serious murmurings within the corridors of the Ministry of Energy and GNPC that their insistence on exercising their right of first purchase of the oil interest of Kosmos Energy as against the company’s attempt to sell it’s oil interest to a fellow American company -Exxon Mobil (albeit through the backdoor) appears to have angered the US Embassy who are allegedly employing “embarrassing” diplomatic retaliatory tools targeted at key personalities in the energy sector.

According to The Enquirer’s deep throat sources, The Minister of Energy, Dr. Oteng Adjei, who was leading a government delegation to the USA to attend a meeting with Blackstone and Warburg Pincus the financiers of Kosmos Energy was on March 27th, this year denied visa.

The Energy Minister had applied for the visa with his diplomatic passport. Sources say, the embassy’s actions angered Osu Castle, the seat of Ghana’s Presidency, and that it took the personal intervention of the usually quiet and genteel Chief of Staff of Henry Martey Newman to secure a travelling visa for the Minister.

On May 7th, 2010, Mr. Atto Ahwoi, Board Chairman of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), who returned from the USA last March, was refused visa by the embassy. Mr. Ahwoi has travelled to the US about 20 times and attended Harvard University in the United States, so many years ago.

When The Enquirer contacted Mr. Ahwoi, he confirmed that the embassy had refused him a Non Immigrant Visa and expressed his surprise at what he called the surprising attitude of the embassy to certain key government people.

When he was asked the reason for the refusal, he read out a letter given to him and signed by an unnamed consular officer which among other things stated that: “You have been temporally refused a visa under INA Section 221G, as you lack certain documents or information needed to reach a decision in your case. For further instructions please refer to the Checked Box below” he read out.

He continued that the checked box read “We need to verify certain documents you have given us or statements you have made. We will contact you at the telephone numbers you provided us as soon as investigations are completed. There is nothing else you need to do at this stage”

When asked whether he shared sentiments that his refusal had anything to with his position on the Kosmos-Energy deal, he said that could be the only reason. “This is about the 20th time I have been to the US, I schooled in the US, I attended Harvard University, At my age, I will not be migrating to the US, why this sudden change” he said.

Early this year, a top officer of GNPC working within the Human Resource Department was also refused travelling visa whilst attempting to travel to US on official assignment.

The official is reported to have told insiders that a consular officer at the US embassy told him that GNPC was “Anti- American”

US EMBASSY RESPONDS

When The Enquirer contacted the US Embassy for comments, Mr. Benjamin East, Information Officer stated that the embassy had no comments to all the issues raised above.

In a telephone and email response the embassy said “The response at bottom applies to the three parts of your question, as I understand it, ie: 1. That the Embassy refused a visa to the Minister of Energy in March, which was issued eventually due to intervention by the Chief of Staff.

2. That the Embassy refused a visa for the Chairman of the GNPC.

3. That the visa cases cited above are a response by the U.S. Government to recent actions/decisions taken with regards to Kosmos’ sale of its Jubilee stake to Exxon”.

RESPONSE:

“U.S. law prohibits the Embassy from commenting on individual visa cases.” Mr. Ahwoi, told The Enquirer that “I have decided I wont go there again, any American who wants to do business with us, must come here”

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