....Family Demands Coy Back
The family of Mr. Ohene Kwofie, the owner and former managing director of Takoradi-based Subin Timbers, which has now metamorphosed into Western Veneer and Lumber Company (WVLC), has called on the government to come out officially to tell them something good, otherwise they would forcibly take over the WVLC.
According to the family, they would not accept the entrenched position taken by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Papa Owusu Ankomah, that he could not recommend the ¢82 billion debt, now hanging on the neck of the WVLC, to his government and hand over the company to them, as they were demanding.
"A ministerial fact-finding committee, commissioned to look into the unlawful seizure of Subin Timbers, recommended to the government to bite the bullet and dispose of the debt. We are, therefore, surprised about the Attorney General's insistence that the government cannot take up the liability when the same report shows clearly where and whom to place the liability on," a spokesman for the family said.
Addressing a news conference in Takoradi last Thursday after a peaceful demonstration at the Apowa site of the WVLC, the head of the family and the eldest son, Mr. Kwofie, Mr. Opoku Adabo, said their father's property, which was Subin Timbers, was seized from him in January 1982 by Messrs Rawlings and Kwamena Ahwoi.
According to him, the decision was taken after soldiers from both the Naval and Air force bases in Takoradi had been sent to the factory to force open the administration and accounts offices, and loot the place.
Adabo told the press that after the soldiers had surrounded the factory and seized it from his father, he was invited to appear before the Citizens Vetting Committee where Kwamena Ahwoi subjected him to many questions, including how he acquired the company.
He said after finding no fault with the old man, Mr. Ahwoi asked him to go, promising to call him back, which he did not do.
Mr. Adabo further told the reporters that 10 months later, Mr. Jerry John Rawlings himself sent a signed note to his father, Mr. Kwofie, that his timber company had been confiscated to the state.
Flt. Lt. Rawlings's letter did not state why the company had been confiscated.
He did not even accuse his father of any wrongdoing.
The letter, however, warned his father that he would have himself to blame if he dared talk about the seizure.
Adabo noted that because the country was then at the mercy of trigger-happy soldiers, the family surrendered the company to them, kept quiet and waited until 1992 when they appealed to the courts to intervene but they were advised to send the case to the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), which they did not hesitate to do.
He said though CHRAJ acknowledged that they had a genuine case, the commission had up to date, failed to give a ruling on the case.
The reporters were further told that after the seizure of the company, Flt. Lt. Rawlings and Ahwoi, through their friend, a Rex Chachu, handed over the company to their bosom friend, Mr. Samir El Masri, a Lebanese, and re-named it from Subin Timbers to the current WVLC.
The new company, he continued, had Dr. Rex Chachu and Richard Butt, a British, as directors.
Adabo said investigation carried by the family at the Registrar General's Department revealed that the then new company had only one shareholder, which was Dr. Rex Chachu, who provided his residential address as government of Ghana through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
Quoting Section 98 of the Companies Code of 1963, Act 179 and Section 30, Mr. Adabo said, strictly speaking, the owner of WVLC was Dr. Rex Chachu, and not the government of Ghana, since the Companies Code did not recognize trusteeship.
He also told the reporters that nowhere in the Registrar's register was it stated that WVLC was to take over the assets of Subin Timbers Company Limited.
To him, this alone meant that Rex Chachu's WVLC had been acting illegally by occupying and operating Subin Timbers.
"Members of the media, what I want to say here is that the owners of WVLC are Rawlings and Kwamena Ahwoi who are using Rex Chachu as a front man. It is a pity and shame," he said.
Mr. Opoku Adabo said now, WVLC, which processed timber for export, had been saddled with a debt of ¢82 billion because of the mismanagement of Mr. Samir El Masri, who was reportedly paying himself $15,000 a month, apart from several thousands of dollars that were regularly sent abroad to import materials and equipment which never arrived.
He asserted that it was the view of the family that Mr. Rawlings and Ahwoi owned the company, since Dr. Rex Chachu had conceded that the appointment of El Masri as MD for WVLC was an imposition from the seat of government.
He, therefore, asked the attorney general to place the ¢82 billion debt squarely at the doorsteps of Mr. Rawlings and Ahwoi and hand over their property to them.
He reminded that their octogenarian father, who, through his own sweat, had set up the company, was now bedridden and needed to be catered for by the family.
He, therefore, appealed to President Kufuor to personally get himself involved to ensure that their father's property was returned to him.