General News of Monday, 11 February 2013

Source: The Herald

How ex-President’s Brother Bought Chinese Planes

*How ex-President’s Brother Bought Chinese Planes From Illegal Source *

The failure of successive Ghanaian governments to probe suspected corrupt practices under the previous regime is becoming an embarrassing spectacle for both the present and past governments as the United Kingdom (UK) is showing that its laws were made to work and are indeed working.

Authorities in Britain, a week ago, jailed one of its citizens, an international arms dealer, who sold military aircraft to Ghana without a valid licence during the tenure of Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, as the Defense Minister, in the John Kufor administration.

In effect, Dr. Addo-Kufuor failed to carry out due diligence on an agent, Christopher McDowell, who is reported to have been introduced by a nephew. Christopher McDowell, 55, from Oxfordshire made over $4 million from the illegal sale and shipment of Chinese fighter jets from China to Ghana, in breach of UK trade controls and has been sentenced by a UK court after an investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The Herald’s independent checks have revealed that the same Chris McDowell, Managing Director of Wellfind Limited, was the same agent used by Dr. Addo-Kufuor in the acquisition of the controversial MI-17 Russian-made four helicopters, in 2004.

Chris McDowell was, indeed, in Ghana during the ceremony at Burma Camp Accra, where the Russian-made aircraft were handed over to the Ghana Air Force in the midst of heated opposition from the then Minority Chief Whip, Edward Doe Adjaho, who together with the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority in Parliament, took up the issue and made corruption and financial loss claims against the Kufuor government.

In the case of the Chinese aircraft, Peter Millroy, Assistant Director of HMRC in a press statement noted that “With many years’ experience in the industry, McDowell knew what he was doing and illegally brokered the aircraft to Ghana without a valid licence. HMRC will find people who, like McDowell, decide to break the law and we are delighted that, after an extensive investigation, he has been brought to justice.”

The HMRC press statement was dated February 1, 2013.

It said in June 2005 that McDowell entered into an agreement with a Chinese company, CATIC, to sell military aircraft to the Ghana Air Force. He intentionally ignored the requirement to have a licence. It wasn’t until February 2007 that he submitted a licence application to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – by which time the first two of the aircraft were in the process of being supplied.

McDowell was found guilty of two counts of dealing in arms that were being supplied to Ghana without a valid licence, at Guildford Crown Court on 28 January 2013. He was sentenced yesterday to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, and he is to serve 200 hours community service.

In sentencing, His Honour Judge Critchlow said that he did not accept that McDowell did not understand the legislation, and commented that the defendant had taken no steps to make enquiries from the DTI, or obtain legal advice.

Confiscation proceedings will follow.

Details of defendant: Christopher McDowell, DOB 4/5/1957, formerly of Shiplake. Business address Abingdon House, Brook Street, Watlington, Oxon OX49 5JH.

McDowell was convicted of two counts of being knowingly concerned in the unlicensed supply of goods subject to trade controls contrary to Section 9 (2) of the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003.

Meanwhile, additional checks carried out on the Chinese jets by The Herald, at Burma Camp have revealed that it was one of the K8 Chinese aircraft that dropped its fuel tank on residents of Adenta near Madina in July last year, nearly killing a lady .

On helicopter purchase contract The contract to purchase four helicopters by the Ministry of Defence under a US$55 million Barclays Bank loan approved by Parliament experienced a lot of difficulties with Minister of Defence, Dr. Addo-Kufour at the time issuing a statement in reaction to information making the rounds about the contract it signed with M/S Wellfind Limited of the UK.

It said “This agreement was entered into with the understanding and knowledge that M/S Wellfind Limited had concluded arrangements with Messrs Kazan Helicopters of Russian Federation for the supply of the helicopters.

However, Messrs Kazan Helicopters informed the Ministry that Messrs Rosoboronexport of Russian had the exclusive state enterprise for the supply of services and products including all types of helicopters produced by Kazan Helicopters but not M/S Wellfind Limited of the UK.

“Messrs Wellfind Limited was, therefore, requested to produce written evidence from Kazan Helicopters confirming that presently Wellfind Limited has the authority of Kazan Helicopters to supply the helicopters, spares, tools and training under the contract between Wellfind Limited and the Ministry of Defence.”

It said the Ministry of Defence, therefore, decided to suspend the contract with Messrs Wellfind Limited for further due diligence to be conducted to ascertain the authority of Messrs Kazan’s position. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was subsequently advised to stay action on any payment due Messrs Wellfind Limited under the agreement.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice was consulted on the contract and Messrs Wellfind Limited was offered the opportunity to indicate whether they can meet their obligations under the terms of the contract within a specified time frame.

It is unclear whether the UK authorities investigated the helicopters deal, and found anything wrong with the role played by Chris McDowell, Managing Director of Wellfind Limited. More to come!