President Akufo-Addo demands apology, retraction from Al Jazeera
President Akufo-Addo demands apology, retraction from Al Jazeera

President Akufo-Addo demands apology, retraction from Al Jazeera over 'Gold Mafia' documentary

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is demanding a retraction and an apology from Al Jazeera for the airing of the documentary - "Gold Mafia", which the Presidency describes as "inaccurate" and "unfair" in relation to how President Akufo-Addo is linked to the documentary.

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A four-part investigation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) was recently released.

It revealed a series of gold smuggling gangs in Southern Africa that helped suspected criminals launder hundreds of millions of dollars, getting rich themselves while plundering their nations.

Related: Al Jazee​​ra’s Gold Mafia investigation and what Mathias said about Ghana

What Alistair Mathias said about Ghana and the U-turn

From the 11th minute of the 1 hour :13 minutes in the 4th Episode of the investigative documentary, Alistair Mathias, a gold trader said to be a designer of money laundering schemes for African leaders is introduced in the documentary.

“There’s no head of state or president that either of us [Mathias and his team] can’t get to on this continent. Next door in Swaziland, the king is a close friend of mine. Zambia’s president is a close friend of my friend. DRC Congo, the president has invited me several times to come and build a refinery," he said.

Unknowing to him [Alistair Mathias], a Canadian man, also described as a financial architect in the documentary, thinking he was meeting with Chinese businessmen seeking to launder money from Africa, was rather meeting with undercover reporters from Al Jazeera, who had posed as the Chinese businessmen. 

It was during that meeting that he boasted and alleged he had a relationship with many African leaders and mentioned the President of Ghana [Akufo-Addo] as well.

Alistair Mathias said that his work has given him access to every president or head of state on the African continent.

Speaking in the final of four episodes of the undercover investigations of gold smuggling in Africa by the Investigative Unit of Al Jazeera, Alistair Mathias, who is one of the main characters in the video, boasted about his relationship with African leaders.

“Ghana’s president is a good friend of mine. In fact, he was my lawyer. Cyril Ramaphosa here; I know him. I know his kids,” Mathias bragged at the meeting with the undercover reporters posing as Chinese businessmen.

Alistair Mathias's U-turn about Ghana

However, after the undercover investigation and when Aljazeera approached Alistair Mathias he made a U-turn on knowing Ghana's president.

Before the conclusion of the Al Jazeera video, it stated that "Mr Mathias denied ever being awarded any tender by the Ghanaian government or entering into any government contracts in any African country.

"President Akufo-Addo of Ghana told us [Al Jazeera] that he had no recollection of acting as a lawyer for Alistair Mathias or his company."

After his meeting with Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters, according to Al Jazeera, “When asked for a formal comment about the findings of Al Jazeera’s investigation, Mathias denied that he designed mechanisms to launder money and said that he had not laundered money or traded illegal gold for Russian clients or anyone else. He told us [Al Jazeera] he had never had any working relationship with Macmillan.”

President Akufo-Addo's demand for retraction and apology

In a letter dated April 25, 2023, signed by the Secretary to the President at the Office of the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, President Akufo-Addo indicated that the documentary by Al Jazeera contained "spurious" and "unsubstantiated allegations" against the President and the Government of Ghana.

It said the documentary in question made baseless claims that the President acted as a lawyer for one Mr. Alistair Mathias and implied that the President personally benefited unlawfully from an alleged $100 million state infrastructure contract purportedly awarded to Mr. Mathias.

That, the President said, “In his letter dated 11th April, 2023, responding to Al Jazeera's letter of 2nd April, 2023, which was received on 6th April, 2023, containing these vague and defamatory allegations, the Legal Counsel to the President, Mr. Kow Abaka Essuman, acting on the instructions of the President, informed Al Jazeera that the President had not been in private practice since the year 2000 and that the President had no recollection of acting as a lawyer, either personally or through his law firm, Messrs. Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co, for a Mr. Alistair Mathias or his company, Guldrest Resources."

It added that “In those circumstances, further and better particulars were demanded from Al Jazeera to respond adequately to the allegations made in Al Jazeera's letter. Al Jazeera was thus requested to provide information on the period for which the President allegedly provided legal representation to Mr. Alistair Mathias or his company, Guldrest Resources. Furthermore, Al Jazeera was requested to provide details of the "USD 100 million tender for state infrastructure", allegedly given to Mr. Mathias, which he outsourced and kept a percentage in offshore accounts, as stated in the letter as well as information on how the President personally benefited unlawfully from the alleged "USD 100 million tender for state infrastructure."

According to him, “Al Jazeera refused or failed to provide these details as requested and went ahead with the broadcast of the documentary. At the end of the documentary, a terse text was shown, contradicting the content of the documentary.

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Additionally, the subject of the documentary, Mr. Alistair Mathias, denied what he said in the documentary to Al Jazeera's investigative journalist.

In light of these blatant denials by Mr. Alistair Mathias and the response from Mr. Essuman, those parts of the documentary ought not to have been included because those statements were not true.”

Below is a copy of the letter from the President's Office 

REQUEST FOR RETRACTION AND APOLOGY FOR INACCURATE AND UNFAIR DOCUMENTARY ON THE PRESIDENT AND GOVERNMENT OF GHANA

I am instructed by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to demand formally that Al Jazeera Media Network ("Al Jazeera") retract immediately and apologise for airing an inaccurate and unfair documentary that contained spurious and unsubstantiated allegations against the President and the Government of Ghana.

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The documentary in question made baseless claims that the President acted as a lawyer for one Mr. Alistair Mathias and implied that the President personally benefitted unlawfully from an alleged $100m state infrastructure contract purportedly awarded to Mr. Mathias. In his letter dated 11th April, 2023, responding to Al Jazeera's letter of 2nd April, 2023, which was received on April, 2023, containing these vague and defamatory allegations, the Legal Counsel to the President, Mr. Kow Abaka Essuman, acting on the instructions of the President, informed Al Jazeera that the President had not been in private practice since the year 2000 and that the President had no recollection of acting as a lawyer, either personally or through his law firm, Messrs. Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co, for a Mr. Alistair Mathias or his company, Guldrest Resources.

In those circumstances, further and better particulars were demanded from Al Jazeera to respond adequately to the allegations made in Al Jazeera's letter. Al Jazeera was thus requested to provide information on the period for which the President allegedly provided legal representation to Mr. Alistair Mathias or his company, Guldrest Resources. Furthermore, Al Jazeera was requested to provide details of the "USD 100 million tender for state infrastructure", allegedly given to Mr. Mathias, which he outsourced and kept a percentage in offshore accounts, as stated in the letter as well as information on how the President personally benefited unlawfully from the alleged "USD 100 million tender for state infrastructure."

Al Jazeera refused or failed to provide these details as requested and went ahead with the broadcast of the documentary. At the end of the documentary, a terse text was shown, contradicting the content of the documentary. Additionally, the subject of the documentary, Mr. Alistair Mathias, denied what he said in the documentary to Al Jazeera's investigative journalist. In light of these blatant denials by Mr. Alistair Mathias and the response from Mr. Essuman, those parts of the documentary ought not to have been included because those statements were not true.

Accordingly, those parts of the documentary are malicious, defamatory, and a calculated attempt to tarnish the reputation of the President and Government of Ghana. It is therefore demanded that Al Jazeera withdraws the documentary immediately, retracts and apologises to the President and the Government of Ghana for airing such an unprofessional and defamatory documentary.

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It is imperative that you act forthwith on this request within seven (7) days from the date of receipt of this letter.

Please confirm receipt of this letter and your intention to take the necessary action as requested.  

Nana Bediatuo Asante

Secretary to the President

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