Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 NDC Cabinet Members Linked to $40M Bribery Case in UK

The trial of Serious Fraud Office's prosecution of Mabey and Johnson has been listed for preliminary hearing on Friday 7 August at 11:30am in Court Number 1 at Southwark Crown Court, London.At Court One of the Southwark Crown Court, London, last Friday, directors of UK firm Mabey & Johnson pleaded guilty to bribing government officials in Ghana under the previous National Democratic Congress government, Iraq and Jamaica. But, in an interesting twist, the presiding judge, Judge Rivlin restricted the press from revealing the names of the officials involved.Mabey & Johnson bribed its way to winning a multi-million pound sterling worth of contracts in Ghana alone in the 1990s covering feeder roads and bridges. About £22m ($35m) of it was for the construction of nine bridges in rural areas in Ghana.But, The Statesman can reveal from its sources close to the case that the names of five top cabinet members in the Rawlings government have been directly linked to the case as alleged recipients of bribes estimated to be more than $6 million. Most of the bribery took place when Prof John Evans Atta Mills was Vice President and head of the government's economic management team.But, Friday, Judge Rivlin ordered that reporting of the case should be limited to arraignment, pleads, date and purpose of the next hearing. "No individuals should be named in the media reports," he ordered, explaining that, "There are ongoing matters in this jurisdiction and in other jurisdictions," which may be prejudicially compromised.The Reading based company, owned by one of Britain's richest families, admitted on 7th July, 2009 at Southwark Crown Court to paying bribes to win contracts in Ghana , Jamaica and Iraq. Last Friday, Mabey & Johnson entered a guilty plea to 3 of the 10 charges, namely charges 1, 5 and 9.Charge 1 read: "Between the 1st day of January 1994 and 18th day of August 1999, conspired with certain of its directors, executives, employees and agents to give or agree to give corrupt payments contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 to Ministers, officials and other agents of the Government of Ghana as inducements to secure, or as rewards for having secured contracts from the Government of Ghana, known as 'Priority Bridge Programme 1', 'Priority Bridge Programme 2' and 'Feeder Roads Projects' for the supply of goods to the said Government of Ghana by Mabey and Johnson Limited. Contrary to Section 1 of Criminal Law Act 1977."Charge 5 involved a corruption conspiracy with the Jamaican government. Charge 9 dealt with a corruption matter in Iraq, contrary to Article 3(a) of the Iraq (United Nations Sanctions) Order 2000 and sec. 1(1) of the United Nations Act 1946. Sentencing is fixed for Friday, 25 September at 10 am.The make up of people in the public gallery of the courtroom last Friday indicated the high level of bother this corruption case poses for President Mills, former President Rawlings and the NDC.There were about six people from the Ghana High Commission and an official of Ghana's National Security was also spotted in the audience.It was a packed court room with 16 legal representatives including officials from the UK's Serious Fraud Office in attendance.The matter had been transferred from Westminster Magistrates Court following a hearing on 10 July 2009.It is the first time that a British company is on trial in the country for corruption offences in a foreign country.The prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office has been trumpeted by the British government, which has been under pressure to bring more corrupt exporters to book. Critics say Britain's performance has been lamentable since it promised in 1997 to stamp out the payment of bribes by British companies to foreign ministers and civil servants.

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