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Opinions of Thursday, 4 November 2010

Columnist: Addo, Kofi

Does the Vice-President of Ghana has Ghana's interest at heart?

Please does the Vice-President of Ghana has Ghana's interest at heart?
Read on:
Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell faces questions over 'Chocfinger' lobbying of
foreign country for £40k donor
By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 7:32 AM on 1st November 2010

Lobby: Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell
personally intervened within weeks of taking office in the case of cocoa magnate
Andrew Ward

A cabinet minister intervened on behalf of a businessman nicknamed ‘Chocfinger’
to get a trading ban lifted after receiving £40,000 in donations from his
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has been referred to the
Parliamentary standards commissioner after he lobbied a foreign country within
weeks of taking office for British cocoa magnate Andrew Ward.
Mr Ward had approached him over a ban that had been imposed on his firm in
Ghana, and asked him to lobby against the restriction ‘at a presidential level’.
Mr Mitchell, a Tory, apparently phoned the British High Commissioner in the west
African state over the matter, even though it was strictly outside his
department’s remit.
His officials also contacted the Foreign Office to say that the partial ban on
Armajaro Holdings – imposed amid allegations that one of its contractors had
been smuggling cocoa – required ‘urgent attention’.
Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham then lobbied Ghana’s vice-president on
behalf of Mr Ward’s company. The ban is said to have been lifted in all but one
of the country’s districts – the one where the smuggling allegations occurred –
in August.
Earlier this year Mr Ward cornered a big chunk of the global cocoa market,
earning the nickname ‘Chocfinger’. He is estimated to be worth £36million.
The ministerial code states: ‘Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or
could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their
private interests, financial or otherwise.’

Internal government documents disclosed under freedom of information laws
suggest Foreign Office civil servants raised questions as to why the Government
should intervene to help Mr Ward’s company.

Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham subsequently lobbied the vice-president
of Ghana on behalf of Mr Ward's company
One wrote: ‘Is this... something we should lobby on? Or should the UK company
realise they have broken the rules and have to pay the price?’
The Commons register of financial interests shows Armajaro Holdings gave £40,000
to Mr Mitchell’s parliamentary office to support his work as shadow
international development secretary between August 2006 and December 2009. The
company also gave £50,000 to the Conservative Party in May 2004.
John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said: ‘The reports raise serious questions
about his conduct. I have referred him to the Parliamentary Commissioner for
Paul Farrelly, Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, added: ‘There will always be
the accusation that, through political donations or contributions to a
minister’s office, influence is being sought or bought.’
A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: ‘The letter
from Armajaro was dealt with in accordance with normal procedures and it was
immediately made clear that the Conservative Party had received donations from
the company.’
Mr Ward declined to comment.