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Opinions of Thursday, 21 July 2005

Columnist: Annor, Joseph

The "Hotel Kufour", and the credibility of ....

...Mrs Gizelle Yajzi (Palaver?s woman)

Perhaps, there has not been any matter that has attracted so much publicity in recent times in Ghana like the so-called "Hotel Kufour" issue. Many people have expressed different views about the issue. Perhaps, there is no single person that has helped to increase the intensity of the controversy other that Mrs Yajzi, as the opposition and other people have mainly relied on her word to accuse the President and his son of wrong doing. The Chronicles and other newspapers recently reported that Mrs Gizelle Yajzi appears to suffer credibility problem.

However, Palaver in its article entitled "Hotel Kufuor: The saga that won?t go away", which was republished by Ghanaweb on 8 July 2005, refers to information that Mrs Yajzi has given as "THE ?GOSPEL? ACCORDING TO MADAME GISELLE YAZJI" ("Giselle's Gospel"). Yet, Palaver in the same article reported that Mr Anthony Saoud contradicted himself and other claims previous made by other people to defend the President. To start with let us analyse some of what Palaver refers to as Giselle's Gospel.

According to Palaver (Giselle's Gospel), Mrs Yajzi has said that she would sue some people like Kwabena Agyepong, report the matter to G8 leaders and the "International Transparency" in Germany. She also said that she has "the brightest, three most important lawyers in the world" and has "opened an account for $3 million to go after every evidence?" (bolding-emphasis mine). Folks, let us get serious here as I see something terribly wrong with Mrs Yajzi's assertion. She claims that she has "the brightest, three most important lawyers in the world " Seriously, it is logically irresponsible to make such a claim and it seems so strange that there was no editor in Palaver who could spot the oddness of the above statement, rather refers to such claims as Giselle's Gospel. I can state precisely and confidently that there is no single barrister or solicitor in the world who would ever dare to claim that he is the best or one of the best three lawyers in the world (at best such a person will simply state he is one of the best in the world) because: 1. Law like many other professions (or disciplines) has several areas of specialisations and no single lawyer can claimed to be authoritative in all areas of law. For instance, an expert in constitutional law may struggle to handle cases in commercial law. However, the Giselle's Gospel ignorantly assumes that one lawyer can be an expert in all areas of law, and for that matter, it is simple to identify the first, second and third brightest and most important lawyers in the whole world. Even, if we assume that she refers to lawyers with expertise in one specialisation of law, the ensuing problems still occur.

2. What criteria is Mrs Yajzi using to measure the degree of the brightness and importance of the said "lawyers" in relative to all other lawyers around the globe. Clearly, it would be absurd to suggest that the brightest, three most important lawyers (if any) can easily be identified as there is no certainty that even a country like United States would have all the best three lawyers (even in one area of law). While I am not a lawyer, I studied several law subjects in my accounting degrees and I can certainly state that one of the best judges I read about was Lord Dennings of UK, yet, it would be childish on my part to suggest that he was the best judge even in the U.K. during his time.

3. Given my experience in Australia and knowledge of United States and other countries, it is unlikely that the so-called (top) brightest, three most important lawyers of the world would have time on the so-called Hotel Kufour controversy. In any case, it is unlikely that the $3 million that Mrs Yajzi says she has set aside for the case will attract such lawyers.

4. Lawyers work in different firms (chambers) and it is absolutely impossible for any single chamber to get the three most important and brightest lawyers in the world. Therefore, I have problem in understanding how Mrs Yajzi would be able to have access to the three most brilliant lawyers in the world, who are most likely to work in different firms scattered across the globe.

5. Even people like George Bush, the U.S President with all his powers and influence would never succeed in getting the three brightest lawyers in the world to handle his case. So how would Mrs Yajzi get access to such three brightest lawyers? Does Mrs Yajzi only refer to lawyers in the United States (or English speaking lawyers). Is it not possible that some countries like France, Germany or even Ghana will have some of the best lawyers in the world? Further does Mrs Yajzi include professors of law and so forth in her definition of the three brightest and most important lawyers in the world?

Further, Mrs Yajzi is said to have told Mrs Saoud that she was buying the Hotel on behalf of the Spanish Government. Why did she lie about her real identity to the owner of the Hotel, as the Spanish Embassy in Ghana has denied any knowledge of her?

In one of the interviews that Mrs Yajzi gave, she appeared to have given the impression that she had sexual relationship with the President (as the interviewer and listeners of the interview were more likely to have understood her response in that way). Yet, she denied the next day that she did not mean that. Although, she continuously tried to explain her references to phrases like having intimate relationship with President Kufour without any convincing argument.

She claims to have a recording of tape conversation between her and other people but has not as yet produced even one. She has refused CHRAJ's invitation to offer evidence. If she has the tape let her play for all of us to hear. It appears Mrs Yajzi has already established her exist strategy from the controversy. Hence, she is quoted (the 15 ? 19 July edition of Palaver) to have reported that there has been an attempt on her life as someone fired two shots on her car, while she was in a saloon doing her hair. Given what Mrs Yajzi has said so far, there appears to be much to desire with the shooting report. Clearly, it seems that those who are looking for the opportunity to crucify President Kufour are not using the right source of information to advance their course. In fact, some papers like Palaver and other people have gone so low as they do not even bother to check the accuracy and validity of Mrs Yajzi's statements, yet concluded that such statements are "gospel truth".

Again, Mrs Yajzi claims that the President and his men (they) "have killed almost hundreds of cows, chicken and whatever it is, to make voodoo" for her and her family. Folks, let us get serious here. Why would the Government kill hundreds of cows, chickens and so forth to make juju for her? While I am a Christian and do not believe in juju, I do not believe that the Government would need to kill hundreds of cows etc to make such juju effective and therefore, Mrs Yajzi's claim appears to be doubtful. Mrs Yajzi has also claimed elsewhere that the Government provided her with about 10 or more security men to protect her at a time in a hotel. "Haba", I seriously have problem with such claim. Does it make sense that she would need that number of security men to protect her in a hotel?

Clearly, Mrs Yajzi does not know what she is talking about. Unfortunately, Palaver and other journalists in Ghana have happily accepted such seemingly false claims as gospel truth, and are using those stories to have President Kufour crucified. While I think the opposition does not have any case against Mr Kufour, I really have problem with those who in the first case recommended such a controversial person to President Kufour as an adviser, given Ghana experience with Mrs Wood in NDC time. After all if she has such expertise, why not use it to help her country of birth Iraq, which at the moment appears to have much more problems than Ghana.

In any case, while Palaver does not have any credibility problem with Mrs Yajzi, they have problem with Mr Saoud and has suggested that his press conference with some journalist were full of contradictions and so forth. For instance, the Palaver reported that Mr Saoud's claim that he decided to sell the hotel because ?costs were rising, he could not raise bank loans, and interest on the loans he had already taken was becoming burdensome?. Palaver asks further that "if a nearly 70-year old, astute businessman with over 50 years experience in the business world, including the murky world of timber and forestry products? could not raise bank loans and could not pay accruing interests, how could Chief Kufour, a 41-year old ?virgin? neophyte of a businessman with absolutely no tack record in business, an employee all his life ? how was he able to put together a consortium of banks to advance him US $3.5 million to buy the Hotel?

Firstly, Palaver?s statement attributable to Mrs Saoud appears to contradict what Chronicles reported. According to Chronicle, Mr Saoud said, "he had borrowed money from abroad to finance the project. However, after he had completed about 70% of the structure, his funds got depleted and because of old age, he decided not to borrow additional money to create a burden for his children in the future".

My understanding from Chronicles' statement is that the old man did not obtain further loan because he felt he might unduly overburden his children in future, and therefore, selling the hotel was the best option. This is very common with businessmen as children of some businessmen may not have the same degree of business skills and interests to carry on their parents' businesses successfully when they become old or pass away. However, the Palaver had reported that (according to the old man) he could not get loan because of his age. Clearly, Palaver's phrase that the old man "could not raise bank loans" and that of Chronicles that the old man "decided not to borrow additional money" do not mean the same and therefore, one must be lying.

Despite the above fact, when palaver recently interviewed Mr Saoud and asked him a question about why he could not raise funds despite his experience, and Chief Kuffour an accountant without much business experience has been able to do that, the old man gave the same answer as reported by Chronicles before (see 15-19 July 2005 edition of Palaver). So my question is, why is it that Palaver was not present at the initial interview granted by Mr Saoud but (deliberately) misinterpreted the old man's response to strengthen their point against President Kufour?

In any case, let us assume that the old man could not obtain the loan because of age as alleged by Palaver, is that strange? Certainly, no. I am an accountant by profession and between 1999 and 2001, I worked in the loan section of the (then) largest commercial bank and second largest company in Australia (by market capitalisation). I can certainly state that as much as the ability to repay the loan and etc are considered in assessing loan applications, the age of an applicant is also one of the important criteria, especially, when the applicant is around 70 years old. So the Palaver in their ignorance should stop talking wrongly about what they do not know. Further, as to whether Chief Kuffour would be able to put together a consortium of banks depends on how he organises his things after all he has extensive management and accounting experience, after all there is possibility that in course of his professional career he might have analysed issues similar in nature to loan applications.

From the foregoing analysis, it appears that Palaver reports everything that they read or hear without giving any thought to it. Certainly, who ever claims that she has the brightest, three most important lawyers in world is simply joking and must not be taken serious. Hence, Palaver, other newspaper, and opposition groups should stop relying on incredible information to cause problems in Ghana. After all the indirect cost that has been sustained in such negative sentiments is far greater than the real cost of the hotel itself, which so far no one has been able to proved that some money has been stolen from Ghana by anyone to purchase.

Joseph Annor is a member of CPA Australia and holds B.A. (Hons) from Legon, Graduate Diploma in Accounting and Master of Business in Accounting from Monash University and University of Technology, Sydney respectively.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.