MR. Kwame Peprah, a former Finance Minister in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration has described suggestions that he should be prosecuted for his role in the acquisition of the Gulf Stream III Jet as a diversionary exercise by the ruling government.
“I'm being made a diversionary tool; each time the government runs into trouble they use me, because as Minister of Finance, I was involved in many transactions,” he said yesterday in an interview with JOY FM's Super Morning Show host, Komla Dumor.
He was reacting to a statement by Mr. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Information and National Orientation, in Accra on Monday, that there was the possibility of legal action being taken against Mr. Peprah for his involvement in the acquisition of the aircraft.
Mr. Bartels alleged that Mr. Peprah, as Finance Minister, signed a lease on behalf of the Government of Ghana and at the same time represented Gallen Limited, the company that sold the aircraft to Ghana.
Mr. Peprah, however, denied that he signed on behalf of Government and Gallen Limited.
“I did not sign on behalf of Gallen, and I am not a shareholder or director of the company,” he said.
The misunderstanding of the issues regarding his role in the transaction, he said, might have arisen, when the then Leader of the Minority in Parliament, J.H. Mensah, claimed that he contacted Cayman Islands where Gallen was registered as a company and was further directed to HSBC Bank.
He said at HSBC Bank, Mr. Mensah was asked to contact him Mr. Peprah.
Mr. Peprah stated that Gallen, was a 'special purpose vehicle' formed by the HSBC bank to facilitate the transaction and added that the creation of that kind of company was the normal way the bank conducts a lease transaction of that nature.
In his view, the matter of the acquisition of the aircraft had been conclusively dealt with following the response by the HSBC to the present government that the transaction was legal and consistent with the bank's procedures.
He stated that he had already given a statement to the Serious Fraud Office relating to the matter.
Asked whether the $16 million at which the jet was acquired was not high, Mr. Peprah said at the time the jet was bought in 1999, that was the value of the model and added that it was verifiable.
Mr. Bartels had said in his statement that the same bank that facilitated the $16 million transaction offered seven million dollars in 2001 for the same aircraft, which he said heightened the suspicion of government.
Mr. Peprah, however, countered that after the September 11 attacks in 2001, prices of aircraft reduced, apparently suggesting the reason for the value quoted by HSBC at the time.
He also denied speculations that the Gulf Stream III aircraft owing to its small size was intended to be part of end- of-service benefits for former President Jerry John Rawlings.
Mr. Peprah said the Greenstreet Report which spells out the benefits accruing to former Presidents and Vice Presidents did not mention the jet as part of the package for the ex-president and added that there was no such intention.
He also defended the size of the aircraft, saying President Rawlings did not object to the size of the aircraft because he was used to travelling with a smaller entourage.
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