The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) yesterday tendered in evidence documents covering the payment of over $4million to former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings as judgement debt to her company.
David Agbele, counsel for the ministry told the Commission of Enquiry investigating the payment of judgement debts that the documents tendered provided a justification for the decision to halt fund allocated to Calf Cocoa International Limited.
He said nonetheless, Calf Cocoa went to court to secure judgment over the halt of funds, and there was evidence that the company was paid $4,150, 27.50 on the court’s orders.
The legal counsel told Sole-Commissioner Justice Yaw Apau that the Debt Management Division of the ministry was task to administer the loan facility secured from the Chinese Exim Bank and Calf Cocoa - which is partly owned by Carridem Development Company Limited, the investment wing of the 31st December Women Movement (DWM) - was one of the three companies to benefit.
He said however, that following the establishment of the HIPC initiative set up by the Paris Club, which could have allowed up to 90% of debts to be written off, the ministry halted the disbursement of the funds.
He said China had said they were not going to be part of the HIPC initiative and that affected the repayment arrangement of the Exim Bank facility.
“The servicing of the debt were halted in anticipation of the re-arrangement. The Exim Bank decided that they would not disburse the loan until the issues over the HIPC initiative were cleared.”
Mr. Agbele said that the document tendered were meant to justify the ministry’s inability to disburse the funds to Calf Cocoa and the subsidiary agreements they had.
He said from the documents, the ministry had genuine reasons not to disburse the funds but the case went through full trial and the government lost.
He said the ministry was compiling the court proceedings and other information regarding the transaction and how Calf Cocoa was finally paid.
Mrs Rawlings in June, appeared before the commission to confirm the payment to Calf Cocoa International but insisted that the amount paid was in cedis and not dollars.
Tony Lithur who had represented Calf Cocoa in court had earlier told the Sole-Commission that he secured $4.15m for the company because the government at the time refused to release about $2.6million to Calf Cocoa for its operations.
Interestingly Nana Konadu went to the commission with a different lawyer outside Tony Lithur who secured the judgement debt for her.
Nana Konadu had said “sometime in 2002 ending, we wrote to the ministry informing them that we had completed everything and we would like to start the project in 2003. It was at that time that we started having problems of who owned the company.”
She said “politics unfortunately came to play in this project and it was difficult to get the money. From 2003 when we were supposed to have started manufacturing cocoa powder, cocoa cake and cocoa butter, it was impossible to start.”
She said when things got out of hand “the Chinese sort of pulled out because they said there was too much political interference,” adding “we decided to go to court to fight the case in 2005 and judgement was delivered in 2008.”
According to the former First Lady, the government went on appeal but lost against Calf Cocoa and in 2009 “we could actually go to the premises again.”
“From 2002 when the problem started, it has not stopped. It carried through to the new government of 2009 and it is carrying through in the government of today. I don’t know whether they really want to let this place function so that we can employ the 2800 people that this factory can employ.”
Source: Daily Guide
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