Hotel Kufuor: The saga that won’t go away
ANTHONY SAOUD ENTERS THE FRAY! —And multiplies the contradictions This time it was the former real owner of “Hotel Kufuor” himself, Anthony Saoud, who spoke. Not the alleged purchaser, Chief Kufuor, the President's son. Not Charles Sam, the denounced PUBLIC relations Consultant of the President's son.
Not Kwabena Agyepong, the Press Secretary to the President who will not speak on the “Hotel Kufuor” affair because he is not the Press Secretary to the President's son but who will speak on it because Madame Giselle Yazji has drawn the President into it.
Not Hon. David Henric Yeboah, NPP MP for Afigya Sekyere East and son-in-law to Anthony Saoud who holds the power of attorney for the sale of the Hotel.
Not the Chief of Staff who decides to speak for the President in a purely private matter about which he is supposed to know nothing.
Not busybody Hon. Kennedy Ohene Agyepong, NPP MP for Assin North, self-proclaimed Defence Adviser to the President who went about swapping air conditioners to be used for the hotel for a 4WD vehicle at a time when the recipient of the air conditioners had not even bought the hotel.
Not officious intermeddlers like failed GFA Chairman Dr. Nyaho Tamakloe and others who all only succeeded in worsening the case for the President by their nonsensical effusions on a subject about which they knew nothing.
No, this time, it was the real owner, Anthony Saoud, himself, specially flown down from his London base for a “damage control” Press Conference to salvage a very bad situation and quickly flown out again to prevent further questioning by the media, given his very pitiable and pitiful performance at his Press Conference held on his factory premises last Saturday.
Not only was the elderly Saoud incoherent and non-credible, he was also a bundle of nerves and contradictions. He contradicted virtually everything that everybody had previously said about the Hotel transaction, and ended up contradicting himself.
According to him, 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.
The question is, 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, described by the 'Daily Graphic' as a 'timber magnate' and by 'Chronicle' as a successful “business tycoon”, manufacturer of the fast-selling “Gye Nyame” plastic chairs, 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?
How do these people expect anybody to believe that his father the President had no involvement in, no influence over, or no connection with, the Hotel sale transaction?
Again according to Mr. Anthony Saoud, the President did not instruct Ms. Madame Giselle Yazji to negotiate for the purchase of the Hotel on his behalf (Chronicle, July 4, 2005).
Question: How does Mr. Saoud know this? Ms. Yazji says the President did, so could not have told Mr. Saoud this. The President is denying Madame Yazji's claim and is therefore likely to have told Mr. Saoud this, which simply makes it a case of hearsay evidence.
Mr. Saoud confirms that Madame Yazji came to negotiate for the Hotel for a Spanish Charity in the company of Chief Kufuor and Hon. Henric David Yeboah (Chronicle, July 4, 2005).
Question: How did Madame Giselle Yazji get to know that the Hotel was for sale, against the background of her assertion that Chief of Staff Kwadwo Mpiani had given her the documentation on the property before the meeting?
According to Mr. Saoud, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) took him to court over breaches of environment regulations, but the charges were withdrawn in 2001 and he was subsequently granted the permit to continue with the project, but at that time he decided to sell the Hotel because of financial difficulties (Chronicle, July 4, 2005).
Question: Is it not significant that the EPA took Mr. Saoud to court in the NDC era; the charges were withdrawn soon after the NPP came into power, and that was exactly when he decided to sell the Hotel, and decided to sell it to Chief Kufuor the President's son?
But the most significant thing about Mr. Anthony Saoud's Press Conference is that it added nothing significant to our stock of knowledge about the “Hotel Kufuor” Affair. If anything, it strengthened the case for a public enquiry into the Affair, as nothing that Mr. Saoud said answered the numerous questions that are crying for truthful answers.
Another significant thing about Mr. Anthony Saoud's Press Conference last Saturday was that the paper that broke the story, the 'National Democrat', was not invited. None of the papers that have been closely covering the story was invited to the Press Conference, namely the 'Ghana Palaver', the 'Lens' and the 'Insight'.
Two radio stations have interviewed Madame Giselle Yazji since the story broke. Radio Gold's Roland Acquah-Stevens was present, but Joy FM was not invited but later interviewed Mr. Saoud.
According to the 'Statesman' of last Monday, media houses present at the Press Conference were the 'Statesman' (Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko), 'Daily Guide' (Gina Blay and Fortune Alimi), 'Daily Graphic' (Ransford Tetteh), 'Chronicle' (Gabby Assumin) and Radio Gold (Roland Acquah-Steven). Kweku Baako of 'Crusading Guide' was reported to have arrived late but interviewed Mr. Saoud separately.
Apart from Radio Gold, all the mentioned media houses are perceived to be pro-NPP and have been very defensive of President Kufuor in the entire “Hotel Kufuor” saga. ... BUT SAOUD CONFIRMS PALAVER'S BROTHER AND SISTER STORY! If there is any good that came out of the Anthony Saoud Press Conference of last Saturday, it is that he confirmed the 'Ghana Palaver' story that Hotel Kufuor is owned by Chief John Addo Kufuor and his sister, also a daughter of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
According to the 'Statesman' (Monday 4-Tuesday 5, July 2005), Mr. Saoud said he received by way of payment for the Hotel two separate Prudential Bank cheques ($2 million and $1.5 million) covering the purchase price of the property, that he sold the property to the Airport West Hospitality Company Limited, and that the two signatories as buyers, were John “Chief Addo-Kufuor and his sister Nana Ama Kufuor.
It will be recalled that in our issue Vol.11 No. 69 of Friday, June 17 – Monday, June 20, 2005, we published that “there is only one other shareholder in the West Airport Hospitality Co. Ltd, owners of “Hotel Kufuor, and she is the sister of Chief John Addo Kufuor”. In other words, she is the daughter of President John Agyekum Kufuor and Mrs Theresa Kufuor. It's a family affair”.
So what happens to all those who were making claims about a South African partnership, banks as shareholders, etc? etc?
So far, your authoritative 'Ghana Palaver' has got it right about the name of the Company (Airport West Hospitality Company Limited), about the owners of the company (Chief John Addo Kufuor and his sister Nana Ama Kufuor) and about the fact that it requires over US$3 million more to complete the Hotel, also confirmed by Mr. Anthony Saoud at his Press Conference ('Ghana Palaver' actually put the outstanding amount required at between US$4.0 – US$ 4.5 million).
The only facts put out by 'Ghana Palaver' that are yet to be confirmed are the name of the Hotel (which we have reported as 'Golden Tree Hotel') and the involvement of the National Investment Bank in the transaction.
But these will definitely be confirmed at any public hearing. THE 'GOSPEL' ACCORDING TO MADAME GISELLE YAZJI --As Anthony Saoud revives 'dying' “Hotel Kufuor” case Against the background of the selective Press Conference held by Mr. Anthony Saoud, owner of “Hotel Kufuor”, last Saturday, we reproduce below edited extracts from various radio interviews granted by Ms. Madame Giselle Yazji, the lady at the centre of the storm.
As can be seen from the extracts, many of the things she has put in the public domain were confirmed by Mr. Saoud, but some were also contradicted by him.
Only a public or a Parliamentary Enquiry can help unravel the truth.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker of Parliament, a public or Parliamentary Enquiry now!
· I was asked by President Kufuor to do it and the first time he asked me about the issue was in New York, on the first anniversary of September 11. He went to my hotel—in the hotel that I was staying and he asked me first of all for a loan of $5 million because he wanted to buy the hotel. I even advised him not to do it because I don't know how he is going to justify that, where he got the money and I even asked him if I give him the loan how he was going to repay me and I don't have any excuses to send $5 million to Ghana but he insisted that he will make the deal with Mr. Saoud——I was asked by the President, Mr. Kufuor asked me to go with his son Chief, and he even told him not to talk but I am the one who is going to make the deal and I offered Mr. ! Saoud $2 million that time instead of $ 5 million.
· Everything I do I have asked President Kufuor, on behalf of President Kufuor, I taped the conversation because I don't want to be involved in any misunderstanding or any I don't know whatever, and this case I take it because I know that it is not normal to buy a hotel for $5 million with his salary but it was not my problem. At that same meeting, I offered Mr. Saoud $2½ million and he didn't even want to sell the hotel. In the meeting even he cried because he didn't want to sell it. Before the meeting, the Chief of Staff gave me all the information about the building and I discovered that he didn't have permit to build a sixth floor building in that area and though he didn't want to sell, he asked for $5 million. Even then the security of the Government had gone to the hotel and they made a valuation, a visit, and t! hey saw that the price was $5 million and this is what the President charged me to do. I said the President is offering to you $2½ million and after like an hour of talking, but I think he didn't want at that time to sell the hotel and I told him the security said he has to sell it because he will sell it or they will take it away from him the hotel because of security issue.
· I was adviser of the President and I even advised him not to buy it. I advised him and he told me that he was going to run the hotel with his son. I told him your son doesn't have enough assets to justify the purchase. I don't know but he insisted that he wanted to buy the hotel and he asked me to help him negotiate the hotel and I did that.
· It is normal the President is not going to put the hotel in his name. I think the whole purchase was wrong because I don't know how they are going to pay the hotel with their salary, but this is really the problem of Kufuor's family. But if he says he is a shareholder, you have to go and see what assets he has to have all this money because I think that they were also buying the house between the hotel and the President's house belonging to a lady, a Lebanese lady, who said Mr. Saoud destroyed her house because of the hotel building and also the President wanted to include that house in the project; this is why he was trying to fix the house of the former President, the big house they have. I cannot remember the name of the former President but I remember that his wife is Egyptian.
· The problem is if Chief John Kufuor owns the hotel, then they gave him the money to pay for it otherwise how he is paying for the mortgage, what money, because I think he is an employee and the hotel is not finished yet, who is paying for this money, who is paying for the mortgage, and we are talking about $5 million worth of assets, it's a big amount monthly to be paid. You know in the world today, even the practice of influence is punished these days because it is part of corruption.
· I thought when with the guy Mr. Saoud agreed on $3 million and even if it was his problem to see how he brings the money because I didn't really want to be involved in that issue because whatever money you know from Mr. Kufuor, it will bring a problem, this is why I taped all the meetings.
· I was adviser of President Kufuor and we had a very good relationship. I never did anything without the permission of the President; even the visit of President Kufuor in New York to my suite can be easily checked. It is very easy to see it as true or not because even the security service was at the door of my suite. It is too easy to do that. I am not accusing him; I am saying what happened. If somebody has accused him, that is another problem.
· All I am saying is go and ask for the assets of John Kufuor's family and who is paying for the mortgage. The mortgage should be a very high price if they have a mortgage.
· Mr. Kufuor His Excellency the President knew always that any meeting I had with him publicly, privately or on his behalf, I used to tape all the meetings because I am a person who cares about whatever I do and I don't want you to understand me like this story now.
Yes I have the tape. I don't know but if it is requested by law maybe I will produce it, I don't know.
· I went to Mr. Kufuor His Excellency the President because anything I used to do I used to tell the President immediately and as he asked me to do it on his behalf, I should inform him of what happened and I told him that Mr. Saoud did agree in the first meeting for the $2.5 million. He even told me maybe we should give him a little bit more money because his son-in-law is from the NPP. I can't remember exactly what the name of his son-in-law is; he has only one son-in-law because he has one daughter. Mr. Saoud and he, this is why we made an offer after that, for $3 million.
· I have every document in my possession. I have a copy of the agreement between Kufuor and Saoud buying the hotel. I have a copy – they are buying the house between the hotel and President Kufuor's house. I have even a document, a private document signed between the Kufuors containing a contract, a big contract signed by the Government.
· They have killed almost hundreds of cows, chicken and whatever it is, to make voodoo for my family and me and I am saying please they should stop it. I respect every religion, whoever is doing this must stop it. You are doing thing again to children and this is not really good. They are making me voodoo. Two years ago, they have started making me, first of all, they have killed so many animals; this is not the right thing to do. I have people who care about me; I have people even in Ghana who love me because I have been a very good person with many people when I was in Ghana. I helped so many people without talking—the Government and the President, he is responsible for the women and children.
· We are initiating a private lawsuit against the President and we have requested a complete health examination of the President and my lawyers have a reason. I am going to protect my family. We are also making a lawsuit against Saoud's son-in-law and Mr. Saoud, because they said that I am a blackmailer and a liar. They are the only liars because I didn't lie. I am saying the truth. They are going to be sued in two countries, not in Ghana because I know that whatever is his name Saoud's son-in-law is an MP. He should be questioned in Parliament.
· I have the recordings. I don't have to say I have something I don't. We are going to give all, everything we have to International Transparency as I told you. I have the brightest, three most important lawyers in the world and I have opened an account for $3 million to go after every evidence and we are having every evidence, we have everything, whatever expense they need to go and show the truth to Ghana, I am going to do it.
· I am suing [Kwabena] Agyepong also because this man, he doesn't even deserve to be sued, because he talks like a kindergarten kid. He said Roland [Acquah-Stevens] gave me his phone number; I don't need Roland to give me his phone number. I can have the number from the copy of the agreement on the hotel. I have the phone number of the President; I have the phone number of every Minister of the Government and the party. Who the hell is he that I have to ask his permission to have his phone number; even President Kufuor gave me his phone number.
· We are making a lawsuit, my lawyers are making a lawsuit because my family and me, it's a private issue against the President; it has nothing to do with the hotel issue. It is about money, it's a private issue. This case is asking for a complete health exam of the President—All these legal battles are going to take place in two countries but I am going to tell you one of them. One of them is the United States.
· The tape is showing how the President was telling him [Chief John Kufuor] all he has to do and when and with how much. I have the tape. Remember that first of all, I have a document, a private document between the Kufuors. Somebody is selling for somebody, you know, my lawyers have the document, I have the document, we can get everything we want. Why? Because this is under the law, these are companies and if they are companies, they are not private.
· They are looking for me to kill me, maybe, not to talk to me. They can kill me, you know, but my lawyers have everything, I don's care and my lawyers have added that they are not going to leave such tape until—
· Now we have a pool of lawyers who are going to work, you know, everything exactly with the name, everything in all the documents will be given to International Transparency.
· I said that I represented a Spanish Company. I introduced myself that way because I was the negotiator in that matter and it was by the order of the President not to say my name.
· Before I went to the meeting with the President's son and on the orders of the President, the Chief of Staff gave me all the information about how Mr. Saoud built the hotel and he didn't have any permit for the extension; permit to rent it, because it is in an area that wasn't for a hotel to be built up to the sixth floor because it was a residential area and this was the point that President Kufuor made me use so that we can ask for better price.
· He [Anthony Saoud] looked very sad and even he cried because he didn't want to sell the building, he was very upset.
· They should come out and show the people the documentation and this is enough, enough papers, enough truth that I have lied, and if they don't do it until tomorrow, then they have lied to the country and I think the President should resign.
· I think the Parliament should force the President to show them the documentation and to clear his name——and that is the only way now.
· My interest in recording everything was] because when I made the negotiation on behalf of the President and when I called him and advised him not to do it because he will have a big trouble for somebody to hear his name is involved, question him and I don't know how they are bringing the money——I have to protect my name. I don't want to be involved in any corruption issue.
· Only yesterday, I received 58 calls telling me they are going to call me, 58!
· I never said he [President Kufuor] was my lover. I said I had a personal relationship with President Kufuor. I never used these words——We are adults——we can do whatever we want with our private lives, this is not the problem. We are not discussing private lives. I am not discussing who is with who, this is not the issue, the issue is who owns the hotel? Please don't go out from the discussion. I need truth. I don't want distraction, because they are saying I am a liar. I am not a liar. Prove it that I am lying. I need the truth.