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Politics of Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Source: Daily Guide Network

Mahama responds to 'Government Official 1' tag

Former President John Dramani Mahama has removed the mystery surrounding the Government Official 1 (GO1) or Individual 1 tag in the explosive Airbus SE bribery scandal.

He is making what looks like a tacit admission that he is indeed GO1 or Individual 1 as referred to in separate investigations in the United Kingdom and the United States, as having received at least five million Euros in kickbacks from Airbus officials.

Although he appears to confirm the GO1 or Individual 1 tag, he has also denied vehemently that he took bribes during the transaction to procure aircraft for the Ghana Armed Forces during his tenure in spite of mounting forensic evidence against him.

It has taken the former President about four months to break his silence on the scandal.

Vehement Denial

He told ‘Daily Graphic’ last week that he did not benefit a dime in the transaction as being alleged and added that he was only motivated to see the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) retooled.

“Let me state without any equivocation that no financial benefit accrued to me. Neither was there any form of inducement in the purchase of the aircraft,” he claimed.

According to the ex-President, who is staging a comeback after being trounced at the polls in 2016 as the incumbent, “My singular motivation was to equip and retool the Ghana Armed Forces in a manner that would make the discharge of their national and international roles efficient and less burdensome and for all the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make; they do not deserve less.”

“I am happy that the said aircraft have become the backbone of the Ghana Air Force and its operations. They used for troop transportation, logistics deployment and medical evacuation (Sic),” he said.

Main Scandal

The global aeroplane manufacturing giant, Airbus SE, in February 2020, was fined a record three billion pounds in penalties by the UK Crown Court of Southwark, London, after admitting it had paid huge bribes on an “endemic” basis to land contracts in 20 countries, including Ghana and in the Unites States. The damages against Airbus SE with Case No.: 1:20-cr-00021 (TFH) was being assessed after the historic judgement at the District of Columbia Court.

UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), in documents sent to court, quoted at least five million Euros as payment of kickbacks to a top Ghanaian official through an intermediary who is a close relative of “a high-ranking elected Ghanaian government official” during the Mahama administration.

Clear View

In the UK Crown Court documents, the SFO named the elected NDC guru as ‘GO1’ and that powerful official was the same person being referred to as ‘Individual 1’ in the US court documents.

In the same vein ‘Intermediary 5’ (I5) in the UK court documents, who has been described as the brother of the powerful elected official in Ghana, was the same person being referred to as ‘Consultant 4’ by the US authorities.

Per the two documents, GO1 or Individual 1 was not just content with having I5 (his brother) handle his alleged bribe-collection arrangements.

According to the documents, GO1 was in “direct repeated contact with senior Airbus SE executives.”

Amidu Factor

President Akufo-Addo referred the matter to the Office of the Special Prosecutor headed by Martin Amidu to investigate, and he has since sent notice to some of the characters mentioned to appear before the office.

There are six key actors involved in the corruption-infested case regarding Ghana and the UK investigators from the SFO who have lined them up as GO1 (high ranking and elected), I5 (British national and close relative of Government Official 1), Company D (corporate vehicle for I5 – shareholder), Intermediary 6 (British national and associate of I5), Intermediary 7 (British national and associate of I5), as well as Intermediary 8 (Spanish company and front for I5).

UK Tabloids

According to the ‘Scottish Sun’ newspaper, the Coronation Street’s Des Barnes actor, Phil Middlemiss, is being sought for questioning over the alleged five million Euros bribery scandal in the sale of three Airbus C-295 military planes to Ghana.

Former President Mahama was accused of having links to a corrupt network, which received kickbacks during the contract process, the newspaper reported.

It said Middlemiss, 56, moved to Ghana after leaving the ITV soap to make a film but ran out of funding before it was finished.

“Middlemiss lives in a smart £400,000 detached property in Greater Manchester, despite being declared bankrupt in 2012 over unpaid taxes,” the paper reported.

“Two other Britons and a UK/Ghanaian citizen are wanted for questioning,” the newspaper claimed and added that in January, the Airbus agreed to pay a three billion Euros fine after the UK, US and French authorities launched a joint investigation into the use of middlemen to sell planes.

The paper reported that in March this year, Mr. Amidu revealed Middlemiss was suspected of working as a project manager for Airbus.

The paper quoted the Office of the Special Prosecutor as having issued a public notice, saying “the four are hereby invited to assist the ongoing investigation of bribery and corruption totalling more than five million Euros.”

NPP Daring Move

Before Mr. Mahama commented on the matter, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) went overdrive and claimed that the ex-President was the person that investigations in the UK and the US revealed took the five million Euros bribe in respect of the sale of aircraft to Ghana by Airbus SE and even dared him to come out and clear the air but unusual of him, the former President went silent, not even his characteristic social media posts.

Mahama Returns

However, Mr. Mahama is fighting back after long silence, insisting that his only motive was “the overarching desire to ensure that our men and women in uniform were provided with the tools and equipment they needed to fulfil their constitutional mandate of ensuring public safety, security and protecting the territorial integrity of our nation and was reasonably met,” and said there was nothing untoward.

“I am proud that under my tenure as Chairman of the Armed Forces Council and as Commander-in-Chief, the security services saw the biggest retooling and equipping in the history of Ghana,” he claimed.

NPP Fires Again

According to the NPP, “Airbus SE, in seeking to sell Ghana three military transport planes from 2009 to 2015, actively engaged GO1, further described as the “key decision maker” in the purchase of aircraft by the then Government of Ghana. Though the first deal for two planes was concluded in 2011, the elected government official could not have been the late President Mills (RIP) because the evidence identifies a ‘Go-Between’, who is said to be a close relative of GO1.”

“The ‘Go-Between’ referred to as Intermediary 5 (I5) in the court papers, is further identified as a UK national born in Ghana. I5 is said to have migrated to the United Kingdom as a young child and thereafter lost touch with his Ghanaian family until the late 1990s.”

Airbus Direct

However, Mr. Mahama has responded that “all the processes and negotiations by the government in the acquisition of the aircraft were conducted directly with Airbus and my administration, without any untoward influence either directly or indirectly through any agents it may have appointed. Indeed, nowhere in the available UK Court Documents has it been said that Airbus paid any public or government official on the side for the purchase of the aircraft.”

Tainted Candidate

The NPP again went on the offensive, saying that “in the face of these facts, it is very necessary for candidate Mahama to come out and be heard publicly. He cannot continue to hide behind others. Of course, we are all aware that he hates answering questions about corruption. He would like to find out if the question is being asked as a former President, or as a candidate of the NDC, or as a human being. But answer he must, because allegedly, all fingers point to him and one of his brothers (Sic).”

Due Diligence

Mr. Mahama countered the NPP and appeared to say that there was due diligence in all the transactions leading to the acquisition of the aircraft from Airbus.

“Some of our gallant and highly efficient officers who composed the technical team are still in active service in the military and I reject any idea that they have arrived at their decisions through inducement or coercion by any person,” he said.

He also said, “It involved the acquisition of naval ships, aircraft, vehicles, arms and ammunition, safety equipment, field equipment and expanding accommodation units,” adding “eventually, the military settled on two C295 aircraft at a cost of about US$24 million each, bringing the cost of the two aircraft to about US$48 million.”

Deliberate Falsehood

“This is clearly and unambiguously stated in all the available documents of the UK SFO. It has nothing to do with the Government of Ghana or with any official of government. To state otherwise is to misrepresent the conclusions of the SFO report and spread deliberate falsehood,” he said.

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