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General News | Nov 30, 2004

Romanian wants £500,000 from Graphic

Africa Confidenial

Romanian-born Captain Avram Moskovitch wants £500,000 (US$918,850) from Ghana's stateowned Graphic Communications Group. This is in return for his 49 per cent stake in Afrimedia International, the Graphic subsidiary which published London-based West Africa magazine.

Moskovitch's company, Media Africa Group, bought the weekly in January 2001 for one pound, within days of Ghana's New Patriotic Party coming to power. The Graphic group needed an investor to rescue the ailing magazine and Moskovitch promised to invest half a million pounds.

The magazine hasn't appeared since August 2003; staff, contributors and phone bills are unpaid. Sierra Leonean Editor Desmond Davies and others have begun a venture called Africa Week.

An 86-year African publishing tradition, which included attempted manipulation in the 1980s by South African security, looks near its end.

Moskovitch heads Media Africa Group, in clandestine partnership with a former Nigerian army officer who prospered under General Sani Abacha's regime. The two are also behind the Five Anchors shipping company, which has a lucrative agency agreement (and shares a London office building) with the Nigerian Ports Authority.

Moskovitch has no track record in publishing. No one can explain how Media Africa Group, with a minority stake in Afrimedia, gained management control of West Africa. He is said to hope it will help his contacts with governments in the region.

He has helped finance Ghana's ruling NPP. and claims that he helped organise security for the Accra government, via an Israeli firm, and hopes to do the same for Sierra Leone's Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The magazine dispute could end up in the British courts, where revelations could further embarrass Graphic's proprietors, President John Kufuor's government.

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