Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Thursday, December 17, 2015
THE AMERI Group has confirmed that Pakistani-born Norwegian, Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is a wanted man internationally for alleged organised crime, was the group’s Chief Executive until August 2015.
Government, through a statement from the Power Ministry, had denied that Farooq was linked to the company and that he only acted as a witness to the agreement on behalf of Ameri.
The Dubai-based group was breaking its silence on the gas turbines deal with Ghana which had set tongues wagging in the country over the contract price of $600 million, according to ACEP estimates.
The story was first published by popular Norwegian news outlet Verdens Gang (VG) last Saturday, giving graphic details about how the NDC government entered into the controversial deal with Ameri Group for the supply of 10 new General Electric TM 2500 aeroderivative gas turbines at an exorbitant price of $510 million with additional $100 million variable costs.
The gas generators have an outright purchase price of $220 million.
The Norwegian newspaper described in the publication the criminal activities of Farooq and how he played a key role in the contract signing, as well as how NDC government officials including Power Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor were involved in what the paper described as fraud being perpetrated on Ghanaians.
The award-winning Norwegian newspaper further published that the power generating gas turbines were estimated to cost $220 on the international market, but the NDC government contracted them for $510 million for Ghana, excluding service and variable charges.
“Mr Umar Farooq [who] served as CEO of Ameri Group until August 2015 was never a shareholder nor a partner in the company. Mr Farooq resigned as CEO in order to pursue other bigger business opportunities,” the group said in a statement in reaction to the Norwegian newspaper’s claims.
The statement, which was signed by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family of Dubai, said: “Ameri Group LLC, duly incorporated under the laws of United Arab Emirates with a registration number 1143904 and also registered with the Chamber of Commerce of Dubai UAE under membership number 240056 with office address in Emgate Building, Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai UAE, signed a BOOT agreement with the Government of Ghana on February 10, 2015 for a 250 MW fast track power project in Takoradi.”
According to the group, Ameri Group LLC “is solely owned by His Royal Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family of Dubai, UAE,” adding that “Ameri Group LLC develops energy projects on the continent of Africa and elsewhere. Recently, Ameri Group contracted to supply emergency power to the Government of Ghana.”
The statement claimed that the newspaper publication was libellous.
“An article published by a tabloid newspaper called VG from Norway made false and slanderous accusations regarding the emergency power project agreement executed between Ameri Group and the Government of Ghana.
Ameri Group stands by its agreements with the Government of Ghana and believes that we have assembled a world class team of developers to accomplish the job on time and on budget. Joining us on the project is the Greek EPC Contractor, METKA.”
The statement said the Norwegian newspaper’s article “targets Mr Umar Farooq, not only wrongly portraying him as the owner of the company, but also tries to malign his character. Moreover, it states that Mr Farooq attempted to swindle the Government of Ghana through this transaction by inflating the price of the contract.”
According to the group, the claim was “ridiculous” because “the contract was agreed upon by the Ministry of Power and thereafter, ratified by the Ghana Parliament with full pricing transparency.”
They said it was false for the newspaper to hold that “Mr Farooq, on his own, caused the transaction to occur. It is a matter of record that the sole owner of the above mentioned company is His Royal Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum.”
The Ameri Group appeared to be holding brief for Umar Farooq Zahoor for his alleged fraudulent activities back in Norway when it claimed the fugitive had not been to the European country since 2005.
“The article in VG shows that allegations against Mr Farooq were raised in Norway of some fraud which was committed in 2010. This is patently false, as in 2010 Mr Farooq was residing in Dubai as a legal resident since 2005 [sic] and had not been to Norway since. During the tenure of his employment, Mr Farooq was never wanted or alleged of any crime/fraud in any part of the world.”
Intention To Sue
It said the Ameri Group had already retained international law firms “to review our legal rights and use them against this slanderous act of the newspaper,” adding that “based on their legal advice, we will reserve all rights to file a defamation case against VG in Norway on the basis of these unfounded false allegations and accusations.”
Parliament Joins Debate
In a related development, Parliament has reacted to the raging debate saying it followed due process in approving the Ameri deal.
A statement issued and signed by Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Kate Addo, said the agreement was first brought to Parliament on the 3rd of March, 2015 and was referred to the Committee on Mines and Energy in accordance with the rules of the House.
“The Committee in deliberating on the agreement asked for additional information from the Ministry of Power which was duly provided.”
The statement said the Committee further invited the sector minister and other technical officers “to attend and proffer expert advice on how to proceed with the agreement, which advice was taken and acted upon by the Committee.”
It said the agreement was never rushed through Parliament as was being speculated, saying, “the said Bill was brought before the House and laid on the 3rd of March, 2015. Once the agreement was laid, the document became a public document and any individual, group of persons who wanted to comment on it could have done so in a memo to the committee or to the House as a whole.”
The statement confirmed that the agreement was approved on the 20th of March 2015, eighteen (18) clear days after it had been brought to the House.
“Invocation of order 80(1) during the consideration of the agreement does not in any way imply that the agreement was rushed through the House. On the contrary, it is an indication of the importance attached to the agreement. The official report of Parliament also indicated that no Member of Parliament wanted to speak on the matter and was turned down.”