There have been several embarrassing scandals that have rocked Ghana in the course of its Fourth Republican democratic journey. But one that is bound to shock many for a long time to come is the Agyapa Royalties scandal under the government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. It cast a dark slur on the integrity of the President and his government, and on the legislature that approved the deal with lightning speed.
It has confounded many, except the beneficiaries of the sleazy deal, why Asaase Royalties Limited, a company with no background, no known history or experience could be created to receive and be entrusted with the rights for all of Ghana’s Gold. Indeed, Asaase Royalties, a Jersey Registered company, currently known in the Republic of Ghana under the name Agyapa Royalties, filed an Annual Return (under its previous name of, registered in 28 February 2020, Tom Williamson is “authorised signatory” and secretary of the company ) of “0“ USD.
The shady nature of the transaction becomes clear when one looks at the players the Government of Ghana chose to be part of the deal. Tom Williamson, Agyapa Royalties’ Group Financial Controller is a former employee of the controversial Ukrainian magnate Gennadiy Bogolyubov. Gennadiy Bogolyubov is a highly controversial Ukrainian oligarch who lives in London. Ukrainian Central Bank has accused Bogolyubov and fellow former PrivatBank owner of siphoning off billions of dollars. https://mlexmarketinsight.com/insights-center/editors-picks/area-of-expertise/anti-bribery-and-corruption/privatbank-can-expect-fresh-hurdles-in-uk-fraud-case-against-former-owners
Gennadiy Bogolyubov had huge interests in Ghana’s mining sector. For ten years Bogolyubov was the owner of the only manganese mine in Ghana, the Nsuta Mine. It is interesting to note the point of convergence of Bogolyubov’s business interest and the government collaborators.
Currently, Ghana’s Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) is the sole shareholder of Agyapa Royalties with George Mireku Duker, the NPP MP representing the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Constituency as Chairman of MIIF. Interestingly, the Nsuta manganese mine, owned by Consolidated Minerals, is located in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality.
One wonders why clear issues about lack transparency, conflict of interest, cronyism and others were so flagrantly disregarded.
In a 64-page analysis of risk of corruption and anti-corruption assessment report released by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on Agyapa Royalties, the report said “the assessment resulting from the examination, and analysis of all the five (5) Agreements making up the Transactions Documents is that they each suffer from the same lack of probity, transparency, unaccountability, illegality and unconstitutionality.”
Indeed, stopping short of describing the deal as a fraud perpetrated against the people of Ghana, the report perceived clear instances of “bid rigging and corruption activity including the potential for illicit financial flows and money laundering in the arrangement of how the fees payable to Databank of Ghana as the decoy which was not approved under the Public Procurement Authority Act, 2003 (Act 663 as amended) are to be made.”
The Special Prosecutor’s damning report, nonetheless, appears to be a mere echo of the alarm the Minority in Parliament and some Civil Society Organisations had, for several months, raised concerning the potential fraud the deal would represent if the government pushed it through.
They raised red flags that Ghana’s Gold Royalties was being handed over to a group of close family and associates of President Akufo-Addo, who used a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) established in the tax haven of Jersey in the UK as a decoy to facilitate the deal away from the prying eyes of the public. The appointment of advisors was shrouded in secrecy. But as was later revealed, in the thick of the clandestine facilitation and transaction were Gabby Asare Otchere Darko, Ken Ofori-Atta, Adu-Boahen, Mark Assibey Yeboah, Kofi Bosompem (son of Snr. Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo), and Charles Mireku Duker.
According to Bright Simmons, a Vice President of IMANI Africa, who was speaking on Joy FM’s Newsfile, the deal is not in Ghana’s national interest.
“In two years, we will make 500 million from our mineral royalties. So, the point they are making about going for money upfront to do projects is not even sound. Not only does Agyapa fail the corruption risk assessment test, it also fails the national interest test. Agyapa does not even merit evaluation.”
Unfortunately, according to the Special Prosecutor, some estimated $4 million had already been spent by the Finance Ministry on transaction advisors involved in the deal even before the deal became public knowledge.
The issue of the lack of transparency became apparent when it came to light that the agreement began in 2018 but the public, including the Minority in Parliament and Civil Society Organisations only become aware of the deal late in 2020. Remedial actions to stop the deal including civil society calls for withdrawal and a Minority walk out in Parliament could not cause the government to pause and consider the ramifications of its actions; but instead, it went ahead and voted its approval – and this was in addition to Cabinet’s own approval.
Indeed, the complicity of President’s family in the deal has caused Nana Frema Busia whose father is a founder of President Akufo-Addo’s political tradition, the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition to urge the President to demonstrate moral leadership by overhauling his entire Cabinet and sacking his cousin the Finance Minister, stating that the Agyapa deal was a “sordid blight” on his Presidency. Addressing the President, she said : “kindly redeem your presidency and governance from the Agyapa glaring disgrace by sacking Mr. Ken Ofori Atta and Mr. Osafo Marfo Snr, so that the Finance Ministry and Ghana’s Economic Management can be retooled by fresh minds and solemn hearts whose sole allegiance is owed to Ghana.”
Indeed, very few bare-faced illicit agreements, as the Agyapa Royalties turned out to be, have the kind of protective clauses intended to protect a few cronies to the disadvantage of an entire nation. The agreement stated in no uncertain terms that the SPV and its directors cannot be controlled by any successive government or Ghana.
Following the public outcry and the release of the report by the Special Prosecutor, President Akufo Addo has yet again surprised many by his request that the deal be taken back to Parliament and debated after the elections. But in response, Ghana’s leader of the Minority in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, the legislaltive body cannot cure the defects in the Agyapa Royalty deal and has therefore called for a complete withdrawal of the deal.
To be clear, the only way to stop such national disgrace is to confront the bold procurement breaches, the open disregard for the law, the glaring conflicts of interest, the shameless cronyism, the ruthless avarice and the rushed legislative blessing of such corruption-infested deals that shames the image of Parliament. The protracted attack and ridicule of people who dared to highlight these lapses and raised red-flags must cease.