M&J Bribery case: CHRAJ concerned about unavailability of documents from UK SFO

Mr. Emile Francis Short - CHRAJ Commissioner

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice is “deeply concerned” about its inability to obtain from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the United Kingdom documents which formed the basis for bribery allegations made against several Ghanaian officials in the Mabey and Johnson (M&J) case.

“To date, the Commission has not received the relevant documents regarding its request for Mutual Legal Assistance from the SFO through the Attorney-General. There has, however, been further correspondence and discussions within the past month between the Attorney-General’s Department and the UK Central Authority,” CHRAJ said in a press release in Accra on Monday signed by the Commissioner, Mr. Justice Emile Francis Short.

The press release, which gave a detailed account of what CHRAJ had done so far since the allegations of corruption against several Ghanaians in respect of the operations of Mabey and Johnson Limited in Ghana came to light, said it would begin a formal hearing once the documents requested from the SFO (UK) through the Attorney General are received.

Former public officials named in the allegations are Brigadier-General (Rtd) Lord Attivor, Dr. George Sipa Yankey, Dr. Ato Quarshie, Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique, Alhaji Amadu Seidu, Mr. Baba Kamara and Mr. Kwame Peprah.

The SFO (UK) had said in order to establish and secure its business in Ghana, M&J appointed agents to act on its behalf in Ghana and countries where it had jobs.

Payment of commissions to the agents was a routine aspect of the company’s business, authorised at director level. These were payments structured into its commercial proceeds and were factored into contract pricing.

It is alleged by the SFO (UK) that in Ghana, the agents were involved in corrupt relationships with public officials with influence over M&J affairs.

During the 1990s, M&J was awarded a number of contracts including priority bridge programme 1 in 1994 valued at 14 million pounds, priority bridge programme 2 in 1996 valued at 8 million pounds and Department of Feeder Roads Project in 1998 valued at 3.5 million pounds.

The SFO (UK) commenced investigations as a result of voluntary disclosures by M&J to SFO (UK) in February 2008 concerning its activities outside UK. The series of disclosures, admissions of facts and pleas of guilt by M&J and the investigations by the SFO (UK) that followed culminated in a Sentence Hearing at the Crown Court at Southwark, London, on September 25, 209

CHRAJ said it was mindful of the fact that the hearing before the Southwark Crown Court proceeded on the basis of pleas of guilt and agreement about the corruption allegations between M&J and the SFO (UK).

“None of the named former public officials was before the court. The Commission has and would continue to afford the named public officials every opportunity to respond to and challenge the allegations made against them.”

The press release said for one reason or the other, there were initial delays by the former public officials in furnishing the Commission with their comments.

“It was not until November 30, 2009, that the Commission received comments from all seven persons involved in the case,” CHRAJ said.

CHRAJ said having received comments from all seven persons in the case, on December 7, 2009, the Commission made its own request for mutual legal assistance to the SFO (UK) through the Attorney General to the UK’s designated Central Authority (the Home Office).

On December 10, 2009, CHRAJ also wrote directly to the solicitors of M&J requesting the documentary evidence in support of the allegations made by the company. “To date the Commission has received no response from the company or its solicitors.”

It said the Commission had, however, since received some documentation on the dealings between the ministries of Finance and Economic Planning and Roads and Highways and M&J.

CHRAJ said it had resorted to all possible avenues to obtain all relevant documentation because they formed the bases of all the allegations against the persons under investigations.

“The Commission intends to commence a formal hearing into the allegations as soon as it received the documents requested from the SFO (UK) through the Attorney General,” the press release said.

Source: GNA

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