19th July 2024

Asante Berko, Director General of TOR

In the face of public uproar following the coming to light a court case implicating some former government officials and Members of Parliament (MPs) in a bribery scandal, in a power purchase agreement (PPA), between Ghana and a Turkish company, the man said to be at the centre of the ‘drama’ has denied any involvement.

Asante Berko, a former executive at Goldman’s London subsidiary, says AKSA Energy engaged a Ghanaian company for its dealings with the government. He cannot therefore be hanged for a crime he did not commit.

“I had no role whatsoever in any activities in Ghana relating to the transaction except for any related matters in procuring international finance. I was not instrumental in the Turkish IPP’s dealings with government officials and members of Parliament. Indeed, that was not my role. The Turkish IPP specifically engaged a local company to provide it with whatever services it required in Ghana,” he said in a statement.

Role

He explained that his role, “after Goldman Sachs had pulled out, was exclusively limited and restricted to advising in raising the liquidity support required for the transaction.”

He added: “I also advised the Turkish IPP in the procurement of its US$150m finance from a bank of international repute.”

Mr. Berko, who is now the Managing Director of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), explained that sometime in 2014, Goldman Sachs, where he worked earlier before his resignation in December 2016, was involved in the structuring of the transaction with the view to financing it.

He gave a chronology of the involvement of Goldman Sachs in the transaction until they “pulled out of the transaction for other reasons.” He added that, as a member of the Goldman team until their pull out, he subsequently, through his network, provided assistance to raise the requisite liquidity support to ensure the bankability of the PPA.

“In all we raised US$150m for the transaction, through a reputable international bank. The liquidity support raised to ensure that the LC was issued underpinned the raising of the US$150m by the Turkish IPP,” he said.

He explained that the Turkish IPP agreed to pay him a fee of US$2million (1.3% of the capital raise), as he had spent the bulk of two years working on this transaction, saying the amount was paid in tranches “the first US$500,000 in September 2016 and the rest in December 2016 and January 2017”.

SEC’s investigation

He stated that in May 2017, officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission of US interviewed him extensively on the matter where he gave full and frank disclosure of his involvement in the transaction as well as all payments and dates when the payments were received.  “I have since not received any communication from SEC until this week,” he explained, adding that the SEC’s proceedings have come as “a complete surprise” to him.

He has therefore stated that he intends to contest the proceedings in court to clear his name.

“Gov’t Official One” again?

The current scandal comes at a time the light on the Airbus bribery scandal involving the previous Mahama administration is yet to dim.

Implicated in the Airbus bribery scandal is “Government Official One”, suspected to be former President John Dramani Mahama. There is suspicion that the former President many be involved in the current scandal.

Officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission of US claim the payment was allegedly made to gain approval for a client’s power plant project in Ghana, from “2015 through at least 2016.”

“From approximately 2015 through at least 2016 (the “relevant period”), while employed at the Subsidiary, Berko schemed to bribe various government officials in the Republic of Ghana (“Ghana”) so that a client of the Subsidiary, a Turkish Energy Company (the “Energy Company”), would win a contract (the “Power Purchase Agreement”) to build and operate an electrical power plant in Ghana and sell the power to the Ghanaian government (the “Power Plant Project” or “Project”),” the SEC said.

Concealing evidence

The SEC in a press statement said Mr Berko tried to hide the scheme from the bank, whose compliance officers questioned how the deal was put together. Goldman, which wasn’t named in the SEC’s lawsuit, terminated its involvement with the project after the energy company refused to explain the intermediary firm’s role, the SEC’s legal complaint said.

In the suit, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court, the SEC said Mr Berko knew the bank stood to earn $10 million in fees if the energy company won the contract and organised financing for it, adding the deal would have “enhanced Berko’s performance and stature within” the bank.

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