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10.01.2006 General News

Ghana embroiled in Czech Elections II

By Prague Monitor

Ghana considered deputy Kraus to be ProAfri director PRAGUE, Jan 10 (CTK) - Ghana thought Michal Kraus, now head of the deputy group of the senior ruling Social Democrats (CSSD), was ProAfri director, not a tourist when he visited it together with controversial businessman Frantisek Rigo and Austrian businessman Alfred Augustin, Mlada fronta Dnes writes today.

ProAfri allegedly wanted to buy shares of the local cocoa beans processing plant, Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes.

Kraus however claims that he went to Ghana as a tourist who also wanted to look into opportunities for cooperation with the Czech Republic.

In an interview for today's issue of daily Pravo Kraus said that shortly after they returned from Ghana, he offered to Rigo the savings bank account of his mother via which he was to transfer 50,000 dollars in Czech crowns.

Kraus said Rigo was to pay within a few hours a deposit under the contract that he signed in Ghana and that his own account was frozen by mistake.

MfD wrote on Monday that the police are investigating the role that Kraus played in the attempt to invest 15 million dollars into the Ghana plant.

Rigo said that Kraus was his partner who was to invest the above 15 million dollars into the venture.

Kraus allegedly told him that this was to be money from bribes from a large state order that, however, was continuously postponed.

Kraus however dissociated himself from Rigo's accusation.

"I was invited to Ghana to see for myself that the situation after the elections is favourable for the resumption of business relations with the Czech Republic," Kraus told police according to Monday's issue of MfD.

Kraus also dismissed the assertion that the 15 million dollars came from a bribe.

He said that the project, including its funding, was only Rigo's matter.

Kraus confirmed in MfD yesterday that he signed an investment contract in Ghana. "It was only as a witness. I did not participate in the deal," Kraus said.

MfD writes today that the Ghana privatisation agency remembers Kraus as one of the chiefs of the Czech group of businesspeople who wanted to buy in Ghana a cocoa beans processing plant.

Gladys Odoio, assistant to the director of the Ghana privatisation agency NTHC who was present at the contract signature, told today's issue of MfD that Kraus and Rigo negotiated in Ghana on behalf of ProAfri that was interested in the plant's shares.

MfD also challenges today Kraus's claim that he signed the 15 million dollar investment contract as a witness only.

It says that it arises from the contract, copies of which it has at its disposal, that Kraus signed the contract as the director of the company that wanted to buy the plant.

According to MfD the contracts bear the signatures of four people. On the Ghana side it is A. Q. Barnor, director of the privatisation agency, and his assistant Odoi.

On the Czech side the contract was signed for ProAfri by Rigo and Kraus.

MfD writes that Barnor and Rigo are mentioned as the main protagonists of the deal, the signatures of Odoio and Kraus are in the witnesses column.

The post of director is however clearly stated together with Rigo and Kraus's names, MfD writes.

Augustin does not know exactly why Kraus went to Ghana. "But he had the feeling from his behaviour that he would also like to participate in the deal," Augustin told the police according to MfD.

Rigo told MfD that Kraus spoke about the 15 million dollars as about money "of a lobbyist group in England."

In 2002 Kraus allegedly told Rigo that it was a bribe.

Rigo also told MfD that this was not Kraus's personal activity. "It was definitely activity of a broader group that stood behind Mr Kraus," Rigo told MfD.

Kraus told today's issue of Pravo about the goals of his trip to Ghana: "If trade with Ghana did start and I did not become a deputy, which threatened then [before the 2002 general election], this would have secured my living. But neither of the two variants occurred eventually," he added.

Kraus also told today's issue of daily Lidove noviny (LN) that his trip could have also helped him in his studies of political science.

"I was then studying, I thought I will gain some study material," Kraus, 48, said about his Ghana trip.

Kraus told Pravo that he will consult with his lawyers what legal steps to take against Rigo, or against the author of the MfD article, which he said he considers to be expediently made now, before the June general election.

(USD1=23.916 crowns)

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