Mr. Anthony Saoud, the original owner of the “Hotel Kufuor” and his son-in-law, Hon. Hendrix David Yeboah, have stated that all the questions Ghanaians are directing to them, should be directed to the President, John Agyekum Kufuor and his son, Chief John Addo Kufuor as they are capable of answering the questions themselves.
Speaking exclusively to your authoritative “Ghana Palaver” in an interview at his residence in Accra, Mr. Saoud said, he is a businessman, selling his property, he has sold it and thank God, he has gotten his money, he has no business with anyone seeking to know where the money used in paying him came from.
“We would not have responded to all the allegations from a section of the media and Radio programme callers but we only came in because Ms. Giselle Yazoo mentioned my son-in-law in one of her interviews on Radio Gold so we were forced to clear our good names Mr. Saoud said.
“As a matter of fact, I can't speak for the President and Chief Kufuor, they have answers to all the questions. If I knew there was going to be so much controversy over this Hotel and it was going to give me sleepless night, I would not have built it”, he added, when he was asked why he was answering all the questions while the President and his son were saying nothing.
“My interest, my whole interest in this Hotel saga," Mr. Saoud said, "is I have built something and I want to sell it, so whoever comes, be he Chief Kufuor, an American, a Chinese, all I want is my money”, he added.
Asked if he had confided in friends and family members that he was pressurized to sell his building, Mr. Saoud said, he has not confided in anyone and that what he did was to ask friends and family members to help him sell his Hotel.
He said, he had even engaged the services of Pastors to pray for him and find out spiritually, if his decision to sell the property was a good one and also ask God's guidance so he can get a buyer.
When he was asked about Ms. Gizelle Yajzi, the Hotel owner said, “I had never met her before, but the first time I met her, I thought she was a nice lady, I did not have anything against her, but during the negotiations, I thought she was confused and was not telling me the truth, especially, when she said she would pay $2 million for the Hotel when I was asking for $5 million”.
Were you surprised when Chief Kufuor, who had come to see your son-in-law previously in connection with the Hotel, came with Ms. Yajzi, who was also hoping to buy the same property?, Mr. Saoud in reply said, “I can't say why he came with her, I didn't know her, that was my first time of meeting her so whether she was coming to negotiate for herself or for Chief Kufuor, I wouldn't know. All I know they both came and I didn't like her negotiations".
Mr. Saoud could not say if he would be against or supportive of a Parliamentary Enquiry saying, he is a Ghanaian, born and bred here, he is for anything and will co-operate if he is called upon. MR. ANTHONY SAOUD'S INTERVEIW WITH "GHANA PALAVER" Ghana Palaver:- Mr. Saoud, once again I am happy to be in your office but my first question is why do you think it is so important to talk to me or the Ghana Palaver Saoud:- You are welcome Sir. I was out of the country and recently I came. I live in Ghana, nowhere else. I was born in Ghana I have lived all my life in Ghana and I want to die in Ghana, so if anybody says I live anywhere else that is not true, so I am here.
When I came, I was told some Pressmen want to meet me. I told them I don't want Pressmen from one side, I want to whole pressmen, those people involved with what is going on to be there.
And when they came and you were not there even I didn't want to hold the meeting, then they said never mind its all right, the other people will tell you. They said they tried to call you, you were not answering or something of this nature, so when your paper came, I read the Palaver all the time, and when I read and my name was on the front page, I called my son-in-law and I told him that please I told you from the beginning that I didn't want to talk.
You see now they talking that we did not invite them it's not fair. I would like to clear the air, so you can call the gentleman, the Editor of Palaver so I talk to him, whatever questions he want to ask me, I am prepared to answer him the same way I answer the others, so you are welcome. This is the reason why I am meeting you this morning. GP:- Thank you very much. There are some Ghanaians, who know you, some are your friends and who say that you have confided in them that the Security Agencies and pressure from the presidency has made you sell your Hotel. Are those people lying? S:- My brother, I have not confided in anybody that I was pressurized to sell my Hotel. I have however confided in my friends that I would like to sell the Hotel and if they can help me to sell it, but nobody asked me why I want to sell it. I want to sell it because this is what is in my mind. I am growing and I have weigh my age against what I will be owing after the Hotel is finished. Then I decided, first it was fifty, and then even I took a Priest to the place to pray for me whether I should sell or not and the priest even prayed and then since the selling point was out weighing the not selling point and because of that I sold it.
GP:- You said in your interview that you suspect there are some big people behind Gizelle Yajzi during the negotiations, who exactly do you suspect were behind the woman?
S:- No, no, my brother, I did not say so. What I said, I was in my yard doing my business, because most of the time I am in the yard. I come to the office only in the morning and then late in the evening – but most of the time I am a field man, I go to see about the production and the factory and so on. So I was one day in my yard when I received a telephone call from my son-in-law, Hon. Yeboah, that some people want to see me, I said all right go with them, sit with them on my veranda I am coming. When I came, I was introduced to the lady and Chief John Kufuor this is how it is.
GP:- Still on Gizelle Yajzi. Did you during the negotiations think that she has some information, prior information concerning your Hotel and if she did, who do you think gave her that information?
S:- You see, when she came – she introduced herself as an investor, coming to invest in Ghana and she was accompanied by Chief John Kufuor. She did all the talking, he didn't talk and not one of us talked. What she said to me is that she want to buy this Hotel and make it Children's Hospital. I said what I am interested in is I build it as a Hotel but if you want to make it Hospital you pay the right price, take it and do whatever you like with it you see, so how much will you offer me. And then she said she has got a grant from the Spanish government $2 million; I said no, you are not paying me half the price of what I want to sell the Hotel for. When she heard! this from me, she softened down, first she was aggressive, then she sottened down and said to me that oh it will go a long way that you have donated something as charity to Ghana and so on and so forth. Then I said yes but this is no sweat, if I had not borrowed money, and I am not owing, I am able to offer this Hotel as charitable thing to Ghana, I will offer it myself, it will bear my name, but you say that this is a grant from the Spanish Government, it means the Spanish government will have all the credit and I have done all the donkey work so this is not good, so since then she started to talk again but after that I didn't want to listen again because, you know, how can you, if somebody is asking for $5 million, then you are offering $2 million. This is not like something that is in the market, she was insulting me, I said. She is a nice lady, I d! on't have anything against her, that is all. I mean people can negotiate, but I think she herself, she was confused what to tell me, she was not telling me the truth that she want to buy the Hotel or she want to buy a Children's Hospital. I don't know what was on her mind. I cannot understand but this is what she told me, that she want to buy the Hotel at $2 million and that was not acceptable to me, so I lost interest in the conversation. She talk a lot, I can't remember every word she said.
GP:- So you never thought she had any prior information on your Hotel (property).
S:- I was asked this question and I said, to whoever asked me the question, that was it surprised to see her coming with Chief John Kufuor, to negotiate for this property, and they said whoever comes to Ghana, a foreigner coming to Ghana, she doesn't know where to go, she does not know what was going on, she does not hear of property for sale like in Europe there is Newspaper or Agents who advertise like in London, you want to buy a property. You see the advert, so the habit has been here that if somebody come here she must be led by either a Minister or somebody in position or a priest or a man in top position to led her to the owner, so since my Hotel was offered for sale and since my son-in-l! aw was advertising the Hotel for sales, and have been talking to people in America, Germany, and other places, so it is one of those things.
GP:- So weren't you surprised since Chief Kufuor had come to see your son-in-law previously and the next time he is coming with Gizelle Yajzi, who also wants the same property. You see both of them want the property, now one comes to see you, then another time when he is coming he comes with another person who also want the property but he decides not to speak. Weren't you surprised?
S:- You see Chief Kufuor, I have never met him before, my son-in-law told me he is negotiating with some people, but I know President Kufuor long ago in Kumasi but Chief Kufuor, I don't know his children, its now only I know him, I don't know the other children, I know chief kufuor because that was the first time I met him with my son-in-law. He said he is negotiating with some people, but he never mentioned their names to me. He said I am negotiating, I am reaching somewhere, it has been going for sometime, this is not the first time, so many times he cames with some news that he has spoke to this person and I never met them, those he spoke to so when he came with this lady, I didn't know even why he came with her, I didn't know him, that was ! the first time I met her so whether he made it this way or he was coming with her to lead him or not that it was up to them to answer, me I don't know, but I met them both yes, on my veranda in my house.
GP:- So you are an experienced business man, a very experience business man in this country, is it not weard that you cannot raise money to complete the Hotel and Chief Kufuor can do that easily, he has no experience, though he is the President's son, he is an Accountant, but hasn't got that business acumen, business experience to be able raise that amount of money, are you not surprise about that?
S:- You see, it is not the matter of raising money or not raising money. As I said from the beginning I borrowed money to build this Hotel and where I have reached and the amount I have borrowed, so sometimes you do something then like, at the end of the day you find out where you are going, sit down every day, every six months to review your situation and then I weighed my age against what I owe, and how much I need again to complete it. That is why I said it should be sold. But after, I have prayed over it and took a Pastor to pray over it, the chances of selling were coming higher than the chances of not selling. So I can't know, I can't speak, how he was able to secure t! he loans and so on, that is not for me to know. Any prospective buyer could have come, you see, and then the way negotiations with others. Some of them were trying to find the money, some of them were weighing my situation, because it is not a small thing, a house or a boys quarters and some fittings a huge, big business and it valueable and it has a very good future and one alone can not do it unless he relies on bankers, you see, and fortunately for me, I had borrowed in dollars, if I had borrowed in cedis, I don't think I could have paid, the interest would have been too much on me. So since I could make a living and make a substitute and do other business with less debt, why don't I do it. Why do I have all the debt you see, you have to weigh your strength, sometimes the experience is there but your age and your tiredness and headaches can, you know, supercede your experience and can force you to do sometimes things tha with your experience you want to do but your strength can n! ot allow you to do.
GP:- Now this whole business of the Hotel, it was Chief Kufuor himself, who announced that he is bought the Hotel by his press release on the Internet – now, I am a bit surprise why have he kept quite and you and your son-in-law are trying to explain things for them. If he came out first to say that he has bought the Hotel, don't you think it would have been very good for he, himself to face the Press instead of you, I mean abandoning whatever you are doing in London and coming down here to face the Press, don't' you think so?
S:-_ As a matter of fact, I can't speak for Chief Kufuor he has to answer that but left to me alone, I wish if this controversy would come over this Hotel, I wish I have not started this Hotel at all and be left alone. But it was so and since it came like that certain questions, I can answer nobody know somebody's mind unless he is a magician or a jujuman I am not a jujuman neither a magician. My interest, my whole interest as, I build something and I want to sell it because it was a decision as I said, a decision in favour of selling came over the decisions of not to sell. So since it was so, so whoever has come, either Chief Kufuor or another man or anybody, American or Chinese, who want it, I would have sold it to him, and my son-in-law, he is the one who was leadin! g, because I gave him the power of attorney that he should find a prospective buyer, he brought a lot of names, about three or four or five names before – its like you have a daughter and then so many people come and they want to marry her, at the end of the day, you can't marry her to everybody, you have to marry her or she has to like the person or what you think that that man would look after her, well you will marry her away but this one is a property is not a daughter, its not a human being, so the decision of selling it was completely a financial decision you see, as it's a financial decision, its for me to decided to sell or not to sell. But for the buyer, provided he pays and the money is in the right way, I am prepared to sell to him.
Yeboah – I have already told you that we are not talking for the President nor the Chief. We didn't want to talk when this whole thing started, the woman Gizelle Yajzi, first when she was talking to Radio Gold couldn't even call my name she said, Mr. Anthony Saoud's son-in-law, Mr Anthony Saoud has three ladies who are all married. The next day she mention my name, Henry David Yeboah, that was the reason why we responded, otherwise it is their (President and his son) business if they can't talk, its up to them.
GP:- Now most of the people, specially from the government side, who have spoken initially on this case, have all quoted security reason for the purchase of the Hotel and from what we have seen, security men are still up there protecting the President. Is it true, I have asked you before but I want to find out from you, if it is true, that you think security reason were part of the reasons why the Hotel was purchased from you because there is this woman Ms Kalmoni, her house has not been bought by the President but yours, being bought by Chief Kufuor – so do you really think that security reasons still played a part in this decision.—
S:- You see, I wouldn't know but what I said before and I will tell you right word. I was taken to the Tribunal not by the Security people but by the EPA over a licence that I should get from EPA. As a matter of fact I didn't have any problem getting my licence to build my Hotel from AMA, from Town Planning because the area up to 1992 was zone as a residential, but after 1992, it was re-zonal and was gazetted to that effect, if you go to AMA or Town and Country Planning they will show you that it was re-zoned after 1992. I didn't know that I need a permit from the EPA because what I know is that, when you get your permit from AMA and there from Town and Country Planning, because they all work together they have to agreed, then they said no,! you have to fill certain forms and whole lot of things but I said I didn't know, so I asked my lady to go and bring the forms. They said OK you go and buy the forms, so I went and bought the forms and paid the fees and I even received a letter from them that they are working on it, so it was I who sent the forms to them and they said they are working on it. But there was pressure from the EPA, because EPA was pressured by the lady you call her name, Ms Kalmoni, that she has taken me to court before, that I have obstructed her view and her lawyer wrote a letter to EPA with a copy to me that I am spoiling the area and that the whole place was not meant for Hotel and that I am spoiling the environment and there was no sewerage and a lot of things. I think the EPA was convinced that by this lawyer, they came to tell me to stop and I said I would not stop, I will continue, since I have all my permits then they took me to the Tribunal. Then in ! the Tribunal it went on for about one and half years – there were adjournment, go and come, I took a lawyer and defended myself. At the end of the day, the EPA themselves, the prosecutor, told the Tribunal that they have agreed to give me a permit, and they want to withdrew the case, so they withdrew it, so it was there after that I sold the Hotel. Why they withdrew the case, I can't answer, the EPA are there they can be asked, they have to answer this question.
GP:- Some of us, to save the image of the Presidency, we are calling for a Parliamentary Enquiring into this matter, where we think that with the Parliamentary Enquiry, whatever comes out , everybody will be free to accept. Do you support such a move?
S:- You see I cannot support and I cannot be against. This will be left for the country's big men, who can make such decision, I am a small man, I cannot involve myself with Parliament and say they should do this or that, they have their own laws. My only interest is that I sold my property got my money, I thank God for it, I want to forget it, its one of those things. I cannot instruct or do anything. I am in the country Ghana, I am a businessman and I want to do my business.
GP:- My last question – The other day I was listening to your interview and there was this suggestion that, selling the Hotel. you have made some capital gain and you are supposed to pay tax on that. Have you done that or you are yet to do that?
S:- You see, the capital gain issue is not an issue. It is the IRS with the businessman. If you have sold something above what it cost you, you pay capital gain, if you have sold something and then have pocketed the money, that is capital gain. But if you have sold Plot A to develop Plot B, then the IRS have to decided whether I am liable to pay. At the moment all the documentation are with the IRS so if they access and I have to pay, I will pay.