Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Papa Owusu Ankomah, has explained what is going to happen to the operations of the Ghana International Bank in London following the Trafigura $140m judgment debt. He stated that the Bank is a separate entity from the government of Ghana even though the shareholders are agencies of the government. A court in the United Kingdom in 2021 awarded a $140 million arbitral against Ghana for the termination of a power deal with GPGC.
The government was accordingly ordered by the court to make full payment of the value of the Early Termination Payment of $134,348,661 together with the “Mobilisation, Demobilization and preservation and maintenance costs” of the value. The court also ordered Ghana to pay all the interest that has accrued from it.
In addition, the government was asked to pay the cost of the arbitration and the legal fees of GPGC, which amounted to over $3 million. Trafigura, an oil trader is in the position now to sell Ghana’s assets in the UK in other to raise the amount of money the government of Ghana owes it.
Asked about what happens to the operations of the Ghana International Bank, Papa Owusu Ankomah told Joy FM that “The Bank is a separate entity from the government of Ghana even though the shareholders are agencies of the government.
“They have access; they are still working, nobody has been evicted including the other tenants in the building. I can confirm that. I was briefed by the Bank even before the order itself was sent to our office, and I know we forwarded it to the Ministry of Finance and I have had some discussions with some members of government about it.
“It’s in the interest of even the judgment creditor to get a settlement of bills because executing this by attaching certain properties of the government will not let you easily get your money “he argued.
“While avoiding detailed commentary on the decision to terminate a contract that brought about this mess, the former Attorney General blamed this situation on the financial challenges the country is faced with.”
He added “The fact is that we are under serious financial strain, and that is what has occasioned this unfortunate situation. Part [Of the money] was paid, then up to a certain stage because of the financial crunch, I am sure we couldn’t have the means.
“I don’t think that we would have deliberately overlooked this liability. When you are financially challenged you prioritize payments. I have been a member of government before so I know what I am saying. Will you stop importing oil because of this debt? Do you stop paying salaries? So, understandably I am sure it’s because of these financial challenges that we’re faced with this situation.”
Regarding the $ 140 million judgment debt itself, the former Sekondi lawmaker said “As far as I am aware, it’s only Regina House which is used for commercial purposes because it’s been rented by the Ghana International Bank, two other banks and another commercial entity. That is the one that has been attached. All other properties are diplomatic properties and covered by immunity.
“I heard you talk about the High Commissioner’s residence, but that’s being used for diplomatic purposes, likewise, the other building you’re talking about, that’s the chancery, has not been attached. But I am sure the government is taking steps to liquidate that debt.”
He added, “It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this stage. It appears our financial circumstances as a country probably, are not holding brief for the finance minister, and that may have constrained the Finance Ministry from honouring the obligation to pay the debt by instalments. But, I am aware that the Finance Ministry is presently engaged in negotiations with lawyers for the judgment creditor to liquidate this debt.
“It’s embarrassing; I am embarrassed as High Commissioner for this thing to appear on the internet and everything, and be a subject matter of discussion in Ghana and in the Ghanaian media here. It’s serious, but even for those in private business, it gets to a stage you have to prioritize payments when you don’t have access to credit and monies being generated do not meet your obligations. Of course I am sure government could have said that we will pay this debt, and not pay some workers.”
He further stated “This is just the beginning. It’s quite a process. It’s not as if it can be done either today or tomorrow because Regina House for instance is on a lease. Even though it’s for a long time, it’s got about five or six years to run, and there are negotiations to extend the lease.
“But I can assure you and Ghanaians that the Ministry of Finance has things well in hand. The creditors are interested in their money and it’s not going to be easy selling these properties, so it’s not as if tomorrow they are going to evict the Ghana High Commission and its staff from its premises, or the High Commissioner from his residence or tenants in Regina House are going to be evicted, no.
“They are going to manage it somehow till they recover the money, so it’s just a way of pressurizing government to pay the judgment debt which I am sure the arrangements are being done.”
By: Laud Nartey