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General News of Friday, 23 May 2003

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Gov't Now Has All Documents On Presidential Jet

THE Minister of Information, Nana Akomea, yesterday said that the government now has all the documents on the presidential jet which was leased by the NDC administration.

Briefing the media in Accra on what has become known as the Gulfstream Scandal, he explained that the documents will assist the government to dispose of the aircraft with the assistance of its manufacturers, Gulfstream Limited.

Nana Akomea said the previous government did not release documents covering the transactions, making it difficult for the current government “to see its way clear on the matter”.

He said the government had to conduct investigations into matters related to the acquisition of the jet, including the loan agreement between HSBC, the purchase agreements between Ghana and Trans Air Trade of Switzerland and the validity of Gallen Limited, a one- purpose offshore company in the Cayman Islands.

He said it was after those painstaking investigations and auditing that it was established that the Presidential jet was bought by the then government from Trans Air Trade of Switzerland and immediately sold to HSBC.

According to the minister, the NDC government then proceeded to lease the same aircraft from the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC), and this was done through Gallen Limited with an agreement that Ghana government guarantees payments by $16 million from Ghana’s Peacekeeping Account with the United Nations.

He said an escrow account was therefore opened in the United States of America to ensure that in default of payment, Gallen could deduct the money from the account.

Nana Akomea said during investigations to establish details of the deal, HSBC sought to come to terms with Ghana after owning up that they are the owners of the company.

He said the government indicated to the owners that it has no interest in maintaining the plane and called for the termination of the lease.

Nana Akomea explained that this was not possible since the agreement signed by the NDC government required that, “the Ghanaian government, the leaser, had agreed to the responsibility of selling the plane in case the lease arrangement was to be discontinued”.

He said Ghana is now left with the onerous duty to look for a buyer for the leased plane.

Nana Akomea said HSBC was in the process of assisting the government to sell the plane but this has slowed down because of September 11.

In answer to why the President has refused to use the plane, the minister said it is both a moral and an economic decision.

He said President Kufuor and the NPP have strongly objected to the acquisition of a presidential jet costing $20 million in 1999, “at a time when urgent social infrastructures were in dire need of government support”.

Nana Akomea added that contrary to public opinion, using the plane is more expensive than the using commercial flight and that the plane, which has an 11-seat capacity, cannot accommodate the entourage of a typical presidential travel.

“Indeed,” he further stated, “there does not seem to be any record of ex-President Rawlings using the jet”, and that the plane was only used by the former Speaker, Justice Annan, to travel to a funeral in Southern Africa.

Asked whether the government intends to buy a Presidential aircraft after this one is disposed off, the minister said the government has no intention to acquire a Presidential jet.

He said “for now the government will concentrate on selling the plane, settle balancing from the proceeds and making a decent recovery for the tax payer”.