Ghana COCOBOD clears Vice President on cocoa scandal allegation

The Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board (COCOBOD) the national regulator of Ghana’s cocoa industry has cleared the Vice President John Mahama over allegations that he influenced the lifting of a ban placed on some cocoa marketing companies that were found smuggling cocoa out of the country.

The agents of the three companies, Armajaro Ghana Limited, Transroyal Ghana Limited and Biaby Limited were caught on tape by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas engaging in cocoa smuggling activities and the companies were subsequently banned from operating in certain areas within Ghana’s Western Corridor with effect from April 16, 2010.

The ban was however lifted in September following appeals to the COCOBOD by the companies.

However, media reports coming out of the UK recently have linked a Cabinet Minister, Andrew Mitchell to circumstances leading to the lifting of the ban and Ghana’s Vice President John Mahama was linked to the matter and suggestions were made to the effect that he had influenced the lifting of the ban.

The Conservative Andrew Mitchell was said to have intervened to have the ban lifted because he had received £40,000 in donations from Armajaro to his parliamentary office.

Mitchell, who is the UK’s international development secretary, reportedly made the intervention after he was asked for help by Anthony Ward, whose firm, Armajaro Holdings, had been banned from trading following allegations that a contractor was involved in smuggling cocoa out of Ghana, the reports said.

Following this, Mitchell was reported to have phoned Henry Bellingham, a Foreign Office minister in Ghana who lobbied Ghana’s vice-president on behalf of Armajaro Holdings.

The Vice President however has denied any direct involvement in the matter. He told Radio Ghana in an interview that indeed, while it is true that the British official in question had spoken to him about the ban, all he did was to advise him to petition the COCOBOD.

In response to these allegations however, the COCOBOD has issued a press statement signed by its CEO, Anthony Fofie, Tuesday November 9, 2010 indicating the circumstances that informed the lifting of the ban of the three companies and said “the Vice President John Dramani Mahama did not interfere with or show any interest whatsoever in this matter as is being alleged in certain quarters.”

According to the COCOBOD, following appeals from the affected companies and their farmers, the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Department of COCOBOD was directed by management to undertake an exercise to ascertain the level of compliance of the three companies to the ban.

The outcome of the exercise indicated that the affected companies had respected the ban and had gone a step further by organizing seminars on anti-smuggling for their field staff, it said.

“Management further noted that the continuous existence of the ban would negatively affect the companies’ staff who operated in districts that were not involved in the perpetration of the act. It was further noted that the ban had adversely affected the provision of communal projects initiated by some of these companies in districts where the incident did not take place,” the statement said.

It also said “it is significant to note that Article 3.8 subsection 2 of the Sanctions for the Malpractices in the Internal Marketing of Cocoa prescribes that ‘the affected company shall be ordered to withdraw its operation from the district in which the incident occurred, for one crop year’.”

The latest action by COCOBOD in limiting the ban to the affected districts is, therefore, consistent with the above-mentioned Article, it added.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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