The Parliament of Ghana, in its attempt to hastily complete some businesses before rising, today Thursday November 3, 2016, had had to rush through several loan agreements and business contracts between the government and some private companies.
Curiously, Parliament passed a contract between the government and a company that was incorporated on September 20, 2016 and has links with an offshore company registered in the Bahamas as found in the leaked Panama Papers.
The agreement was passed on October 28, 2016, between the Ministry of Transport and Contracta Construction UK Ltd to develop the Kumasi airport.
The company is a subsidiary of Brazilian company Contracta Engenharia, which says on its website that it has been in existence for 15 years. There is also a Ghanaian subsidiary, known as Contracta Construction Ghana Ltd. Sources indicate to ghanabusinessnews.com, that the Ghana subsidiary has been in operation for five years. Attempts by ghanabusinessnews.com to speak to officials of Contracta Construction Ghana Ltd., were unsuccessful, despite at least making two phone calls. The officials always say they would call back, but never did.
Enquiries by ghanabusinessnews.com, led to a discovery that the UK subsidiary which has been handed the €66,350,000.00 contract for the design and execution of works in respect of the development of the Kumasi international airport, was only incorporated as recently as September 20, 2016 and has a registered office in the city of London.
Further searches by ghanabusinessnews.com found that the company is linked to a company found in the leaked documents known as the Panama Papers.
The company is connected to Contracta Engineering International Ltd., with its registered address as 2nd Floor Goodman’s, Bay Corporate Centre, West Bay Street, Nassau, Bahamas, SP-61567. This company is also listed under Initial Shareholdings.
Contracta Construction UK Ltd., has Intertrust UK Ltd., as secretaries. There are three directors, all of them Brazilians. They are Fabio Henrique Camara, Francisco Lourenco and Ellio Saacco.
The Panama Papers offer a wealth of insight into what offshore companies are used for. Offshore companies are corporations registered in offshore financial centres (tax havens), which are secretive and usually remote jurisdictions that provide financial and other services to non-residents.
Most offshore financial centres are island states such as the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Mauritius and the Bahamas; but offshore financial centres also include inland states such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and some states in the USA such as Delaware.
Apart from offering low personal and corporate income tax rates, such financially secretive jurisdictions do not disclose the personal and financial account information of their clients or the identities of owners and shareholders of corporations registered there. It is extremely difficult to get information about companies registered offshore, except through court orders.
While these secrecy jurisdictions and the anonymous companies that can easily be incorporated there are not necessarily illegal or criminal, they have become attractive to corrupt politicians and criminals such as drug traffickers and terrorists who wish to safely hide their ill-gotten wealth, as well as enterprises who wish to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the countries where they do business.
Ghana itself, was once a tax haven, but just after four years, the country was forced to shut down business.
The decision to set up an offshore operation in Ghana started in June 2005, when the Ghana government signed a memorandum of understanding with Barclays Bank to enable the bank develop an offshore operation in the country. The tax haven was to be called the International Financial Services Center (IFSC), but by 2011 it was shut down following pressure from international civil society groups
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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