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15.02.2007 General News

NDC, Abodakpi, Rawlings In $500,000 Kickback Scandal

By statesman
NDC, Abodakpi, Rawlings In $500,000 Kickback Scandal

The Statesman newspaper has seen evidence suggesting that a multinational company, Cotecna, paid substantial kick-back bribes to the government of the National Democratic Congress in return for the award of an inspection contract. In a confession letter written by the former $20,000 a month local agent of Cotecna, a company internationally infamous for paying kickbacks to Heads of State, George Mould, former President Jerry Rawlings' old pal makes a shocking disclosure of alleged bribery and money laundering involving the former President, former Minister Dan Abodapki and the former ruling party, National Democractic Congress.

Mr Mould alleges that Cotecna, the 70% owner of Gateway Services Ltd, which, under the NDC won a lucrative customs inspection contract of imports at our seaports, was as far back as 1996, chanelling kickback payments to the NDC. In one instance, the inadvertent snitch, who clearly felt wronged after being cut out, said he had agreed with Mr Abodapki on a $500,000 kickback to be illegally paid into the coffers of the NDC from the Swiss company, Cotecna.

The letter, dated 1996, was written at a time when Cotecna shared the then pre-shipment inspection of imports with two other companies, SGS and Intertek Testing Services. The author of the letter referred to having "a serious heart to heart discussion with his Excellency, the Head of State,” on the “subject matter of the Cotecna affair.” The author, who described himself as a partially aggrieved “bonafide agent for Cotecna,” warned that “Cotecna was going to have a field day as they tried to cut me out of the deal and proceeded to throw peanuts at the Party in order to save money all in the name of the President.”

He was referring to Ghana"s Head of State at the time, Jerry Rawlings. Cotecna, the company, has no 'President' but a chief executive and a chairman. In fact, that it was the then President Rawlings who was being referred to was confirmed by Daniel Abodapki, the convicted MP for Keta, and Deputy Trade & Industry Minister at the time, who wrote a four-page letter to The Statesman dated 14 November 2003, shortly after The Statesman and the Crusading Guide reported on the half a million dollar kickback story.

In Mr Abodapki's letter, which will be re-produced tomorrow in full, he writes, “I've decided to expose the facts that precipitated George Mould's rather infamous and malicious letter for posterity to judge.” George Mould - a former Air Force Pilot, was, and probably still is, a close pal to former President Rawlings. Yet, that did not stop the aggrieved Mould from incriminating his old pal. Perhaps, seeking to protect the Head of State, Mr Mould writes: “In future I would humbly suggest that the name of the President be the last resort in any business transaction as he should have the opportunity to deny any collusion in such matter.”

He then continued to drop the bombshell: “As it stands, the President cannot claim innocence of soliciting funds from the Masseys.” Cotecna is owned by a Swiss family – the Masseys – with Elie Massey as chairman and Robert Massey, as chief executive. George Mould also says in the letter: “I propose that as a bonafide agent for Cotecna, I could go to the management of Cotecna with the President's backing and insist that monies due me should be paid to the Party. That was also a precondition anyway.”

He continues with the game plan, “I shall then request that they pay up-front all monies that will upon projection, accrue on my account to the end of the contract period.” Showing some level of political astuteness, Mr Mould adds: “This being election year it could go a long way to help renew their contract, come 1997. I believed they should be happy to part with US$500,000.00. We then share such monies equally as agreed with the Hon Dan Abodakpi or as the President might deem fit.”

Cotecna was the company that got the son of the former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, embroiled in the food-for-cash scandal and a former Pakistani head of state convicted and her husband convicted. Again, in 1995 two companies, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) and Cotecna, took up a contract for customs inspection of goods being imported into Pakistan.

Ms Bhutto, who received a six-month suspended jail sentence, along with her jailed husband, were adjudged to had received an illegal 6% commission for awarding the customs inspection contract to the two Swiss firms, SGS and Cotecna. Cotecna a world player in custom inspections from Iran to Mali has been accused of bribing state officials to win contracts. The 2003 controversial conviction of Pakistan's two-term leader for taking bribes from them has added credence to a letter written by the old pal of Rawlings in 1996 over Cotecna's alleged kickbacks to the NDC and Mr Rawlings.

The apparent implications of the Pakistani scandal in Ghana cannot go amiss. Cotecna Inspection, the 70% owner of Gateway Services Limited, in 1999 won the bid to hold a virtual monopoly over the inspection of goods imported through our seaports. It acquired an X-ray scanner capable of scanning 20/40 foot containers with a loan which was guaranteed by GSL's 7% owner, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.

GPHA paid for its equity stake with land, which was bizarrely valued in 1999 at ¢7 million at ¢1 per share. Ironically the ¢7m is even smaller than the annual rent payment of $10,000 for the property. The loan guarantee is for 25 years, while the GSL contract with Government of Ghana is for ten years. Prior to that, from 1972 to 1994 SGS was the only company mandated to do the inspection. Robert Dougal Watt, a former auditor of the European Court of Auditors, Luxembourg, who blew the whistle on some of Cotecna's alleged corrupt deals, disclosed.

“In 1994, SGS acquired Cotecna, an American-owned, Swiss-registered company. “He added, “In 1997, Cotecna was sold back to its original owners. It is currently active in many developing countries, verifying compliance with World Bank and IMF loan conditions; a task which gives its staff close links with national elites and great financial and economic influence.” Yet, their modus operandi of winning contracts have come under some scrutiny since Kroll Associates, the firm of US private investigators, staffed with former CIA agents, brought to public attention in 1997 the set of incriminating SGS and Cotecna documents apparently stolen from the safe of the Bhutto family lawyer in Switzerland.

One such document was a 29 June 1994 letter signed by Cotecna boss, Robert Massey, addressed to Ms Bhutto's Swiss lawyer and trustee, Jens Schllegelmilch. Three such letters commenced thus: “Should we receive, within six months from today, a contract from the Government of Pakistan for the inspection and price verification of goods imported in Pakistan, we, COTECNA INSPECTION SA, Geneva will pay… on the total amount invoiced and paid to us by the government of Pakistan for such a contract during the whole duration and its renewal.”

In April 15, 1999, Lahore's high court sentenced Ms Bhutto and her husband to 5 years imprisonment and fines of $8.6 million on the Cotecna deal. But Pakistan's Supreme Court overturned the finding two years later, alleging political bias and ordering a re-trial. Bhutto, who has lived in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai since 1998, refused to return to Pakistan for the retrial and was convicted for absconding.

She was dismissed as premier in 1996 on criminal as well as corruption charges.