OSP, Airbus Bribery Scandal

Ghana’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) published last December, its second half-yearly report on its activities for 2023.

The office reported on cases it has investigated and completed as well as ongoing investigations.

Ongoing investigations include those listed below.

(1)  Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Limited (SML) / Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
“The office has commenced preliminary investigation into contracted arrangements between (Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Limited – a company registered in Ghana – and GRA for the stated objectives for the enhancement of revenue assurance in the downstream petroleum sector, upstream petroleum production and minerals and metal resources value chain.

“The preliminary investigation is based on a complaint filed on December 18, 2023, by the Fourth Estate (a project of Media Foundation for West Africa and Manasseh Azure Awuni).

“The complaint alleged possible corruption, including breaches of the Public Procurement Act, in respect of the contractual arrangements’’;
(2)   State stool lands and other vested lands
(3)  Government payroll
(4)  Tema Oil Refinery and Tema Energy and Processing Limited
(5)   Electricity Company of Ghana Limited
(6)   National Sports Authority
(7)   Ghana Water Company Limited
(8)  Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority
(9)   Bank of Ghana, and
(10) Estate of Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, Alias Sir John.
Cases on which investigations are still ongoing include the Airbus SE scandal.
On Airbus SE, the five-line paragraph on its report runs as follows:

“Investigation is ongoing in respect of alleged bribery by Airbus SE, a European multinational aerospace corporation, regarding the sale and purchase of military aircrafts for the Republic.”

“The Office is engaged with INTERPOL and the central authorities of the United Kingdom and the United States under the mutual legal assistance regime.”

Once again, the report of the OSP for the second half of 2023, like previous ones, were scanty and empty — with regard to the Airbus SE scandal.

There was nothing new in respect of what had been previously reported on, since the new Special Prosecutor, Mr Kissi Agyebeng, took over from Mr Martin Amidu in August 2021.

Unlike cases that Mr Agyebeng had investigated and completed with special attention, the Airbus SE bribery scandal case was not accorded any special and dedicated approach.

The OSP reported that it was “engaged with INTERPOL and the central authorities of the UK and the US under the mutual legal assistance regime”.

What has taken place between Interpol, the UK and US central authorities and the OSP in respect of the Airport SE bribery scandal were not disclosed and the expected arrest and questioning of the public officials allegedly implicated did not happen.

Mr Agyebeng with his OSP has surprisingly kept Ghanaians and the international community in the dark for more than two years.

He has not briefed the Ghanaian public on what has transpired between the international institutions that the OSP has claimed it was collaborating with for the sole purpose of taking the implicated persons to court.

The facts of the case and legal decisions on the Airbus SE bribery scandal that landed the company in courts in London, UK; Washington, US; and Paris, France, are well known.

Briefly, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) jointly with units of the US and French Departments of Justice, conducted investigations into the operations of the Airbus SE and published their findings in January 2020.

The investigative team found out that Airbus SE offered bribes to officials of the government in foreign countries – Ghana, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Airbus SE and the UK SFO later worked out a bargain plea approved by a London High Court. Under the deferred prosecution agreement, Airbus SE agreed to pay $3.9 billion to avoid prosecution.

In January 2023, the company fulfilled its part of the bargain; and related cases against it in the UK, US and France were closed.

Ghana’s involvement in the Airbus SE scandal was heard at the London High Court. The court was told that Government Official Number One, who was described as a high-ranking elected public official, and Intermediary Five, a blood relation of Government Official Number One, were reportedly involved in receiving money from Airbus SE.

The monies were meant to serve as inducement to enable the company to win contracts in Ghana, for the purchase of three military aircrafts between 2011 and 2015.

It should be recalled that the cases against Airbus SE for offering bribes to government officials of five countries to win contracts have ended, after the company accepted guilt and met the requirements of the deferred prosecution agreement by paying up some money in lieu of prosecution.

In Ghana, why is the OSP dragging its foot on the case?

It is two-and-half years since Mr Agyebeng’s OSP began its work with the UK SFO and the Departments of Justice of France and the US, and INTERPOL on the Airbus SE case.

What is it that Mr Agyebeng’s OSP wants from the international bodies he claimed he was working with?

Why was the first Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu, able to work with despatch on documents he had from the UK SFO and its counterparts in the US and France and, within seven months, he identified Government Official Number One as former President John Mahama, and Intermediary Number Five, as his brother, Samuel Mahama?

Why was Mr Amidu able to inform the public about his collaboration with Interpol for the arrest of Samuel Mahama, and why has Mr Agyebeng, so far, not been able to do so?

Why are the half-yearly reports published by the OSP not scrutinised by Parliament or any relevant public agency?

Why has Parliament not invited Mr Agyebeng to the august House to answer questions on his work since he took over in 2021?

The OSP does not have absolute autonomy.

The Attorney General’s Department and Ministry of Justice has an oversight function on the OSP because the institution can go to court only at the instance of the Attorney General.

Why has the Attorney General, Mr Godfred Odame, kept silent on this important matter, which is likely to tarnish Ghana’s reputation, if Ghana fails to meet the requirements of international law?

International law requires that public officials found to have received bribes should be prosecuted and punished in conformity with the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

The Convention came into force in 2005. It is regarded by the UN as the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument.

It covers five main areas: preventive measures, criminalisation and enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, technical assistance and information exchange.

Asset recovery is very important to Ghana at this time the country needs money for development because, presently, it cannot borrow money from the international market.

This statement from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is relevant to the Ghanaian situation: “A highlight of the Convention is the inclusion of a specific chapter on asset recovery aimed at retrieving assets to their rightful owners, including countries in which they have been taken illicitly”.

Ghana is a member-state of the UN.  Ghana ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in June 2007.

It is legally binding on Ghana to act with dispatch to conform to the UN Convention by criminalising, prosecuting and sanctioning, in respect of the Airbus SE bribery case, suspected government officials and others.

Failure to enforce the Convention with regard to the Airbus SE case would earn Ghana a bad name.

Ghana would be seen as a country that harbours and shields top government officials who abuse their offices by accepting bribes.

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