Agyapa/Asaase Royalty deal to mortgage Ghana’s gold royalties through notorious tax haven is a “very shady deal” ex-President John Dramani Mahama has said, as he is the latest high-profile personality to raise red flags about the deal.
“If I become President, I will not respect that agreement. It is a theft of Ghanaians royalties and it is made to benefit just a few people. Ghanaians cannot accept this.” he told Radio XYZ in an exclusive interview on his campaign tour this weekend.
“We do not accept that the government of Ghana should invest our royalties in an offshore tax haven,” a peeved Mahama warned.
On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the Asaase/Agyapa Royalties scandal broke, revealing the scandalous deal being initiated between the triangle of President Akufo Addo and his two close cousins, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, his main advisor at the Presidency and the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.
The scandal them amending portions of Ghana’s Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) to allow them to channel over 75% or some US$ 200 million of Ghana’s mining royalties through an opaque company (Agyapa Royalties Limited) registered in a notorious tax haven called Jersey on the British Virgin Islands.
In less than one year of its registration in Jersey, and even before it has started any operations, the company has changed its name from Asaase Royalties to Agyapa Royalties.
Analysts who have followed the paper trail of the deal have concluded that it is an elaborate conspiracy by the President and his close family and friends to personally hijack the mineral royalties of Ghana by choosing to route the funds through a tax haven with an unenviable reputation as a place where corrupt politicians and global companies hide their funds.
“The money laundering laws do not allow us, even as individuals, to hide our monies in tax havens, why would Government of Ghana mortgage our gold royalties to a private company in which we have 51% and some shady individuals we don’t know have taken 49%. On what basis did they take those shares?” The Ex-President analysed.
Whatsup News can report that President Akufo chaired the cabinet meetings that initiated the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) ACT, 2018 (ACT 978). Consequently, the legislation birthed a special Fund called the MIIF fund which decided to operate through a private Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Agyapa Royalties.
The frontline transaction advisors to the questionable SPV is Africa Legal Services, a law firm owned by Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, who is also a direct cousin to President Akufo Addo and a member of his kitchen cabinet.
There is no known legal procurement process used to select the law firm of Mr. Otchere-Darko who is a politically exposed individual. His firm has been reportedly paid some GHC 10 million for its questionable role in the scheme.
According to investigations by Whatsup News, Asaase/Agyapa Royalties has a relationship with a company called the Pan African Capital Group. Interestingly, several financial tools from the Databank Group links back to Pan African Capital Group.
Databank Group is a company founded and owned by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta and his associates. This add one more link to the web of conspiracy that directs the Agyapa deal towards entities owned personally by the men at the presidency and the Finance Ministry.
A further probe by Whatsup News at the Registrar-General’s Department indicates that the supposed subsidiary of Agyapa/Asaase Royalties called ARG Royalties Limited had its first CEO and director named as Yaw Baah.
Incidentally, Mr. Yaw Baah, a lawyers who lived in the UK, is a Senior Research Fellow at the Danquah Institute (DI) founded by Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko. He also worked closely in the research department of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP)’s 2016 campaign.
Again, checks reveal that another director of ARG Royalties is called Felicia Ashley. She was the Vice President and Head of Human Capital and Administration at Ken Ofori-Atta’s Databank. Ms Ashley was later moved to the Finance Ministry headed by Mr. Ofori-Atta to be the Head of General Administration of the Ministry of Finance.
This closely-knit triangle linked to the Presidency and Finance Minister Ofori-Atta has reinforced suspicion that the Akufo Addo administration may have deliberately plotted the grand scheme to capture the country’s revenues from the mining industry.
On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the Parliamentary Finance Committee and the Majority parliamentarians on the side of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) secretly pushed through contentious amendments to the MIIF Act to basically incapacitate the Ghanaian government from being able to probe the dealings of Agyapa/Asaase Royalties.
Part of the curious amendments include the fact that Agyapa will not be subject to Ghana’s tax laws and it will also not be subject to Ghana’s Financial Management Act which is the legislation that scrutinises how public funds are managed to prevent misappropriation of funds.
The Amendments also gave sweeping powers to the Finance Minister in the deal, while forcing Ghana to waive its sovereign immunity, a situation that will open Ghana up for serious possible suits from the private owners of Agyapa Royalties.