World anti-corruption advocacy group, Transparency International (TI) has impressed upon the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to reject attempts by the Akufo Addo administration to list the dubious Agyapa Royalties deal on grounds of corruption.
In a statement posted on its website today December 22, 2020, TI said the UK government must make detailed inquiries into the Government of Ghana’s application to list Agyapa Royalties Limited on the London Stock Exchange, saying there is a groundswell in Ghana about how the Agyapa Royalties deal is fraught with massive corruption.
In a submission to the FCA – and forwarded to J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch International and law firm White and Case – Transparency International detailed concerns shared by a coalition of almost 30 Ghanaian and international civil society organisations that the deal smacks of corruption.
Linda Ofori-Kwafo, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana chapter of Transparency International said: “There are serious red flags in how this deal was set up. Concerns have been raised by civil society actors around inadequate stakeholder consultation, transparency and the valuation of the deal. Other concerns bother on the way transaction advisors became involved in the process and a lack of public oversight over the company at the heart of the deal. It is crucial for Ghana that the western financial institutions and regulators involved in this deal take these concerns seriously. They must not facilitate schemes that may end up plundering Ghana’s mineral resources in the name of investment.”
The latest press statement from TI is a follow-up to a report done by TI in November 2020 where it had warned UK authorities to run from the Agyapa Royalties transaction that the Ghanaian Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta is seeking to list on the London Stock Exchange.
On its website, TI warned, “Authorities, lawyers and bankers in London have a responsibility to stop a risky proposal that would deprive Ghana’s people of much-needed gold revenue”
“As investors look for safety from volatile markets and increasing national deficits, gold prices hit an all-time high in August 2020. This year would seem like an opportune time for the world’s largest gold producers to consolidate their control over this vital natural resource. Alternatively, they could follow the example of Ghana and try to sell off almost all of their rights to future gold royalties in perpetuity. This is the story of Agyapa Royalties.”
According to TI, given gold’s strategic importance in a post-COVID-19 world, “it is beyond curious that Ghana is proposing to sell almost 76 percent of its future receipts from gold royalties to a special corporate vehicle in the British overseas territory of Jersey – a known tax haven and secrecy jurisdiction.”
The damning verdict from TI confirms exposure from civil society groups in Ghana and Ghana Special Prosecutor’s Office, suspicion that the President Akufo Addo and his cousin Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta and Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, had connived to keep Ghana’s entire gold royalties for themselves and their cronies whom they claim are “private investors” in the Agyapa deal.
Under the deal, Ghana would own 51 percent of the Jersey-based company Agyapa Royalties and the remaining shares would be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In return for handing over such a large share of their future revenues, the government has argued that it could raise US$500 million in capital to ease their growing debt crisis by listing the remaining 49 percent of shares. This values the rights at around US$1 billion – far less than they are potentially worth, as Ghanaian think tank IMANI Africa has argued.
Conservative estimates put the true value of these royalties at US$ 2.5 billion, yet Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta personally contracted his private company as transaction advisor to the dubious transaction that massively undervalued the value of the royalties set to be handed over to Agyapa.
In his corruption assessment report of the Agyapa deal, Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu revealed how Ken Ofori-Atta used a South African Company, Imara Corporate Finance to front for his company Databank Financial Services as a “ decoy”.
“Millions of dollars have already been paid to both with little input from the Ministry of Finance. The way Imara was contracted – and the involvement of Databank in the deal – led Amidu to suspect “bid-rigging, and corruption activity including the potential for illicit financial flows and money laundering,” TI stated.
Martin Amidu has accused President Akufo Addo of attempting to arm-twist him to “shelve” the damning revelation in the Agyapa report, a situation that led Amidu to resign as Ghana’s first-ever Special Prosecutor.
In his resignation, Amidu said he could not get himself to become a “Poodle” to Akufo Addo to hide the fraudulent content of the Agyapa deal, hence his resignation.