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29.04.2005 Business & Finance


By Lens
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But one member of the Consortium is not a member

Since writing the above piece, Matthew Bruce Burrows has arrived in Ghana at the head of a 5-memder United Rail International (URI) team to resume negotiations with the Government of Ghana for the takeover of the Ghana Railway Company Ltd (GRC).

James Agyenim-Boateng of Radio Gold cornered him for an interview after he had missed Burrows' formal Press Conference, and the account he gave of the URI saga which was played back on Radio Gold last Wednesday was substantially different from what Ports, Harbours and Railways Minister Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Ekumfi and the Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), Mr. J. K. A. Wiredu, have been telling Ghanaians.

According to Matthew Bruce Burrows, URI is a Consortium made up of three entities – Holdtrade (UK) Ltd, Trackbed Foundation, and Rail Road Development Corporation (RRDC) of the USA.

Mr. Burrows stated that Holdtrade (UK) Ltd owns 50% of the shares and is bringing into the Consortium its local knowledge of the GRC, having worked in Ghana with GRC for over 10 years.

Upon persistent questioning by James Agyenim-Boateng, Matthew Burrows admitted that Holdtrade (UK) Ltd ceased representing Clayton Equipment (UK) Ltd about 4 years ago, because there was an internal arrangement to transfer its representation in Ghana to its affiliate Company, Holdtrade Mining Co. Ltd.

Readers will take judicial notice of the fact that 4 years ago was when the NPP Government came into office, and will also take judicial notice of the above story that reveals that Holdtrade Mining Co. Ltd is owned by Oscar Rettenmund (40%) and Frank Randolph Roberts (20%), the two childhood friends of the Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.

Is it possible that this “deal” was planned a long time ago by the transfer of the Clayton Equipment representation in Ghana to Jake's childhood friends' Company, Holdtrade Mining Co, as soon as the NPP came into power?

Mr. Burrows also admitted to James Agyenim-Boateng that the credit limit of Holdtrade (UK) Ltd in the UK is a mere £20,000, but he insisted that the credit rating was for guidance only and in any case was irrelevant for Ghana's purposes since financing for the Ghana project is to be provided by Trackbed Foundation.

Mr. Burrows also revealed that URI has a confidentiality agreement with the Government of Ghana and the DIC, and that the only reason he was talking to the press was because he had been given permission by the Ghana Government to do so.

The second alleged member of the Consortium bidding to take over the Ghana Railway Company, according to Matthew Bruce Burrows, is Trackbed Foundation, which owns the other 50% shares. Burrows says Trackbed Foundation is registered in the Isle of Man, and that its members prefer to remain anonymous, and he would say no more.

In his own words, “the members of the Trackbed Foundation, who mostly finance investments in Africa, do not want to be bombarded by the press; they prefer to be angels and not put their heads on the parapet”.

Try as Mr. Agyenim-Boateng did, Burrows would not be drawn out as to who the members of Trackbed Foundation are or when the Foundation was incorporated, except to say that anyone interested could check from the Isle of Man.

The alleged third member of the Consortium, which according to Mr. Burrows will be the technical partner, is Rail Road Development Corporation (RRDC) of the USA, is not yet a member of the Consortium, he said.

At first, Mr. Burrows was reluctant to talk about the relationship of RRDC to URI and United Rail (Ghana) Ltd, but again upon persistent questioning by James Agyenim-Boateng, he grudgingly admitted that RRDC will only be brought in as a management consultant if URI strikes a deal with the Ghana Government, and that it would be at that stage that RRDC might want to buy shares in the Consortium.

Notwithstanding that RRDC is not yet a member of the Consortium, Mr. Burrows was full of praise for URI's future partner, volunteering the information that RRDC runs seven railway lines world-wide – in the USA, two in Argentina, in Guatemala, Peru (all in South America), Estonia (former USSR) and the Malawi-Mozambique railway line as their only operation in Africa.

Mr. Matthew Bruce Burrows left a small window of escape in case his escapade in Ghana goes awry. According to him, there is no contract yet, and that URI “is still bidding, still negotiating”, and that they hoped to be successful in the future.

It will be recalled that this was the same line taken by Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Ekumfi, the Minister, when he found his back against the wall at one of his earlier Press Encounters.

Readers will also recall that when the NPP Government found its back against the wall in the IFC loan case, a mysterious South African Foundation allegedly made up of South African millionaire philanthropists suddenly emerged from nowhere as the shadowy financing group behind the IFC deal. That foundation however had mysteriously vanished into thin air by the time the demolition job on the IFC loan was finished.

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