BY: Enimil Ashon
Ghanaians woke up last week to news that transactions leading to our purchase of three military aircraft between 2009 and 2015 were tainted with corruption.
After nearly four years of investigations by authorities in the USA, the UK and France into the business operations of Airbus, it has come to light that between July 1, 2011 and June 1, 2015, this multinational bribed elected officials of Ghana who represented the government in the purchase.
Airbus itself has accepted culpability and has been fined $3.9 billion for its corrupt practices in Ghana, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Taiwan within the same period.
Reactions from Ghana and the multinational company have been predictably typical of the two cultures of the world. In one culture, Airbus has shown remorse and promised, on its official website, that forthwith, it is “determined to conduct its businesses with integrity”.
While it is true that western Europe and America are not corruption-free, the Airbus reaction, for me, comes from a guilty corporate person operating in a culture where impunity is next-to-zero.
What about Ghana? The President, Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, government has asked the Special Prosecutor to investigate – quite comforting. For me, however, the most striking reaction is that of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Is it not strange and striking that instead of pledging its co-operation in the search for the culprit(s), the NDC has dismissed it with a wave of the hand, stating that “the reports alleging that Airbus SE paid bribes during the administration of Presidents John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama are false, misleading and do not reflect the approved judgement”.
I do not know the full text of the Approved Judgement, but would it be reasonable to a right-thinking person that Airbus would make this confession and pay such a hefty fine if the charges were not true? An NDC top person has described the search in Ghana for the culprits as a witch-hunt. I ask: would Airbus go to this extent of having its reputation soiled in court and paying so much in fines just to help President Akufo-Addo witch-hunt the NDC?
Let’s look at the facts before the UK court
Fact: Airbus and its vendors paid, offered or agreed to pay political contributions, fees or commissions in connection with these sales in the amount of, at least, €3,596,523;
Fact: A high-ranking Ghanaian elected official, mentioned only as “Individual 1” (who was in office from 2009 to 2016), made direct contact with the Airbus management about the purchase of the aircraft a few months after he took office;
Fact: In 2011, during Individual 1’s time in office, Ghana’s Parliament approved the purchase of C-295 aircraft.
Fact: Airbus purposefully sought to engage Consultant 4, brother of Individual 1; indeed, Consultant 4 traded on his access to Individual 1.
If this is not corruption, then I don’t have a dictionary.
The seriousness of the crime
The NDC, in seeking to downplay the seriousness of this high crime against Ghana, alleges that the deal cost Ghana nothing. Really? Is NDC aware that one of the aircraft in question (a CASA C295) is said to have overrun the apron “during a routine engine run recently” owing to its rickety nature? Lives could have been lost.
The State doesn’t need to prove any loss. It is criminal enough that a high-ranking elected government official with power to influence purchasing decisions, did use, as Ghana’s intermediary, a brother who knew next to nothing about the aerospace industry.
Truth is, people don’t just care about Ghana; for almost every elected or appointed Ghanaian official, the motto is: “Me, my tribe and my party.”
I am convinced that the Special Prosecutor’s task is an easy one. In trying to get close to Official 1, Martin Amidu’s office only has to: One, look out for an elected government officer who took office in 2009;
Two, an individual who was still in office in 2011 when Parliament approved the purchase of the aircraft;
Three, an individual in top position in 2011 whose brother was also a UK citizen.
I have heard it being argued that the use of agents and consultants in high-profile purchases is normal. Question, however, is whether or not the agents and consultants in this deal were known to Parliament.
This deal stinks to highest heaven.
Reminds me of the Lockheed bribery scandals that involved bribes made by officials of U.S. aerospace company, Lockheed, to government officials in some countries from the 1950s to 1970s in the process of negotiating the sale of aircraft.
The punishments were swift and decisive. In Italy, President Giovanni Leone was forced to resign on June 15, 1978. In Japan, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who had been accused of accepting $3 million in bribes, was sentenced to four years in prison.
In Ghana, nothing would have happened. And still won’t, today, unless civil society mounts pressure. With our eyes open, Jerry Rawlings openly confessed to receiving $2 million from Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, and went free.
Ghanaians have been providentially handed evidence of how the greed of elected hypocrites bleeds this country into poverty through corruption. Once again, we stand the danger of letting a big thief escape from the bag because he is an NDC-NPP politician.