EOCO to probe K.T. Hammond

BY: Victor Kwawukume
Kobina Tahir Hammond

The government has directed the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to investigate the authority and mandate under which Mr Kobbina Tahir Hammond, a Deputy Minister of Energy in the Kufuor regime, disbursed an amount of US$900,000 to ‘Constant and Constant’, a UK-based law firm.

The amount was to be used to cater for the future indebtedness of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to other creditors.

It is also asking for an explanation as to how the law firm disbursed the money that was supposed to “cater for the future debts of GNPC to other creditors”.

 

The directive was contained in the government White Paper on the recommendations of the Judgement Debt Commission issued in Accra on Wednesday.

The commission was composed of the Sole Commissioner, Mr Justice Yaw Apau, then a Justice of the Court of Appeal but now a Justice of the Supreme Court. K.T. Hammond sold the drill ship,

Discoverer 511

Mr Hammond had sold a drillship, the Discoverer 511, belonging to the GNPC to defray a debt that the company owed Societe-Generale (S-G).

But records on the sale of the drillship, the report said, had disappeared from the Attorney-General’s Department and the Ministry of Energy, only for Mr Hammond to present to the commission a sealed envelope which he claimed contained the alleged relevant documents.

His explanation was that a Good Samaritan, who he never identified, left it in his pigeon hole in Parliament.

The report of the commission recounted that the GNPC had entered into a contract with S-G but a dispute arose, following which S-G sued the GNPC in a London High Court over payments that S-G alleged the GNPC owed it.

The GNPC, it said, denied the claim and counter-claimed against S-G through its external lawyers, Bindman & Partners.

Subsequently, the government of President J.A. Kufuor dispensed with the services of the external solicitors and asked the then Attorney-General, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to assume responsibility for the conduct of the case.

The Ghana government, through Mr Hammond, resumed the settlement talks with S-G but the government neither appeared to defend S-G’s action in the London High Court nor informed the court about the out-of-court settlement attempts.

Default judgement

Consequently, the court entered a default judgement against the GNPC for US$47 million in June 2001. However, at the time of the default judgement, S-G had accepted a final out-of-court settlement of US$14 million from the Ghana government.

The result of Mr Hammond’s efforts, according to the report, was a compromise settlement of US$19.5 million.

The government then decided to sell one of the GNPC’s marine assets, the drill ship Discoverer 511, to pay off the compromise settlement amount of US$19.5 million.

The acting Managing Director of the GNPC, Dr Ofori Quaah, was made to sign a power of attorney for and on behalf of the GNPC, empowering Mr Hammond to sell the drill ship while in London and use the proceeds to pay off the debt owed by the GNPC.

K.T. Hammond reacts

But in a riposte, Mr Hammond has accused the government of refusing to confront the principal actors at the GNPC which led to the $47 million judgement debt awarded to S-G.

He alleged that a former CEO of the GNPC, Tsatsu Tsikata, was responsible for creating the huge debt which the NPP government managed to slash down to $14 million.

He accused the Judgement Debt Commission of treating Mr Tsikata with kid gloves when he testified before it.

Mr Hammond, however, said he would appear before EOCO if he was asked to do so, saying he would always accord state agencies respect.