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10.04.2006 General News

Crisis At GIA: Four Executives Fired

By Graphic

A three-member Interim Management Board has been formed to run the affairs of the Ghana International Airline (GIA) following the dismissal of the first board of the new airline last Friday.

The new board is headed by Mr Azu Mate, a former Chairman of an interim management task force overseeing the liquidation of Ghana Airways.

Other members of the board are Mr Kojo Andah, the Director of the Department of National Lotteries, and Mr Frank Okyne, a former Managing Director of Ghana Airways.

Last Friday, barely 17 months into the operations of the new national airline, its four top executives, comprising the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Brain Presbury, the Vice-President, Operations, Mr Sammy Crabbe, the Special Assistant to the CEO, Mr Sean Mendis, and the Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr K. K. Apeadu, were summarily dismissed.

Insider sources disclosed to the Daily Graphic that the four officials were sacked by the Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, after what tipsters said was a heated argument between him and the management of GIA last Thursday.

It is still not clear what prompted the argument but it was believed to have centred on the grounding of the airline last week by Ryan International, the company from which the GIA aircraft was leased.

The Chief of Staff, who also doubles as the man in charge of aviation, is expected to issue a formal statement on the status of the airline today (Monday, April 10).

Other sources revealed that Mr Albert Vitale, a former Vice-President, Operations, of GIA, who was given notice to leave the airline for unsatisfactory performance and unbecoming conduct but who resigned, is to return, this time to the topmost job at the airline.

Last Friday night, a group of armed security officials besieged the Silver Star Towers offices of the airline to force Mr Presbury out of his office and have it locked, but he was absent at the time.

The situation compelled US Embassy officials to hurriedly rush in to evacuate the Chief Financial Officer and the airline's consultant who are both US nationals out of the office back to their base in the US.

In the midst of the confusion, some loyalists of the Vice-President of the airline in charge of Public Affairs, Mr Sammy Crabbe, who is also the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), arrived in their numbers to force the security men out of the place.

For more than three hours operations at the offices of the airline were temporarily halted, since the security men would not allow anybody to enter the office to conduct any business.

The situation did not, however, affect the flight operations of the airline as one of its flights took off as scheduled to Gatwick, UK, the same night.

The GIA was formed last year after a US-based consortium won the bid to partner the government to form a new airline to fly the national flag.

The move to form a new national airline came about as a result of the liquidation of the ailing Ghana Airways, which flew to many destinations in the world, including the US, but owed its creditors more than $150 million.

The GIA now operates a daily flight schedule from Accra to Gatwick-London with one aircraft. The shareholding structure of the airline is 70 per cent for the government and 30 per cent for the US-based consortium.

Mr Crabbe said in an interview that the shareholders' agreement of the airline had defined the role of the government and the board and described Mr Mpiani's action as very unfortunate.

He described the action as "a kind of nationalisation of the airline" and noted that creditors would start attacking the property of the airline, thinking that "the old Ghana Airways is back".

Mr Crabbe said he represented the consortium but the consortium was not aware of what was happening.