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General News of Monday, 22 May 2006

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Controversial prez jet sold for military aircraft

Accra - The government announced on Sunday that it has finally sold off a controversial presidential jet to a Chinese company, but doubts remain whether that would be the end of the matter.

The government said it had accepted an offer from the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation to trade-in the Gulf Stream GIII aircraft for four K-8 military aircraft and one K-8 flight simulator for the Ghana Air Force.

An official government statement signed by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Kwamena Bartels, said the Gulf Stream aircraft, which had been valued at five million dollars, would be used as down-payment for the four K-8 aircraft and the flight simulator.

It said the current market price for an air worthy Gulf Stream GIII aircraft in service went for about 6.5 million dollars according to Conklin and de Decker, world acclaimed and approved valuers in the aviation industry.

It said the Gulf stream jet would fly out on Monday to its new owners.

The acquisition of the plane by former President Jerry Rawlings in 1999 became a major political issue as the current government then in opposition said it suspected underhand deals in the purchase.

It became a major election campaign subject matter in 2000 and President John Agyekum Kufuor vowed not to use the plane when elected.

He stuck to his vow and never used the plane, instead flying a F 28 for short flights and commercial flights for long distance trips.

Kufuor party described the purchase of the jet as wasteful and frivolous said taking advance payments together with other information supplied showed that the cost of the aircraft to Ghana was 16.45 million dollars plus preliminary expenses of 3.18 million dollars.

Rawlings' opposition National Democratic Congress said there was nothing fishy about the purchase and challenged the government to unearth any deals if it found any.

President Kufuor put together a comittee made up of ministers - J.H. Mensah, Yaw Osafo-Maafo and Nana Akufo-Addo - to investigate the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the plane. The findings were never made public.