Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Monday, December 14, 2015
It is turning out that a top director of the AMERI Group that the government has entered into a deal with for the supply of gas generators towards solving the protracted power crisis is a wanted man.
The Pakistani-born Norwegian, Umar Farooq Zahoor, is currently being pursued by authorities in Norway together with Interpol for organised crime, including money laundering.
Incidentally, Umar Farooq is the person leading the AMERI deal which recently brought in the generators to Takoradi where they are being installed.
The story was first published by popular Norwegian news outlet Verdens Gang (VG) last Saturday, giving graphic details about the generators deal and how the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government officials, including Power Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor, are involved in what the paper says is fraud being perpetrated on Ghanaians.
According to the award winning Norwegian newspaper, the turbines were estimated to cost $220 million on the international market but the NDC government is contracting them for $510 million.
“VG investigated what happened after the wanted man from Norway and the prince from Dubai acquired ten gas turbines for Ghana for $510 million.
VG’s investigations show that these turbines usually sell for 220 million dollars. So why did the West African country pay 290 million dollars more than the standard price?” the paper queried.
Apart from the equipment price of $510 million, Ghana will pay $16 million annually in addition for gas supply to the turbines.
“Donkor confirmed to VG that the government of Ghana had acquired ten gas turbines from a company called Ameri Group. The minister had signed the contract seven months earlier, which may be the best transaction ever for the mystical Dubai-based company he did his business with,” the paper averred.
There are strong suspicions that Ameri Group may be a single-purpose company as it has no track record in the power generation industry.
Just last week, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby, former Chief Executive of Volta River Authority (VRA), hinted that the generators should not have cost Ghana more than $220 million if they had been purchased directly from General Electric, but from a third party Ghana will be coughing about $750 million for the five years contractual period.
When DAILY GUIDE reached the Norwegian journalist, Amund Bakke Foss, he confirmed visiting Ghana for the story and even took a picture with Dr Kwabena Donkor, explaining that the newspaper did a thorough job on the deal.
According to VG, Umar Farooq Zahoor is now a well-known name among investigators at the Financial Crime Section of the Oslo Police District of Norway.
“On 9th September VG met Ghana’s energy and power minister Dr Kwabena Donkor at the government quarters in Accra. He confirms that Umar Farooq Zahoor from Oslo had a key role in the agreement.
“VG showed the minister a photo of a wanted man; a Pakistani Norwegian named Umar Farooq Zahoor (40). The 40-year-old man from Oslo is wanted by Norwegian and Swiss police for spectacular acts of fraud committed the last ten years,” it said.
According to VG, Dr Donkor did not waste time in identifying a picture of the fugitive whom he knows as the head of the Ameri Group when two of its journalists visited Accra in September.
“Then we showed the minister a picture of the man who co-signed the agreement with Umar Farooq Zahoor, a prince from the ruling family in Dubai. The minister had no doubts: The sheikh, his royal highness. They both work for Ameri Group,” it disclosed.
According to VG, Ameri “has apparently achieved spectacular success in a very short period of time. Their website was created two months before the multi-million dollar contract was signed with the government of Ghana.”
Dr Donkor is said to have signed the agreement with Ameri Group six weeks later on 10th February, 2015 after President John Mahama had created the power ministry and put him in-charge.
“VG has a copy of the 40-page long deal Umar Farooq Zahoor (40) signed together with the minister of energy and petroleum in Ghana,” the paper underscored.
It said, “The contract was signed by the minister of power and another prominent representative of Ghanaian authorities, Assistant Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dominic Ayine.”
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai ruling class and Umar Farooq Zahoor had signed for Ameri.
Ameri now has Ziad Barakat as the new chief executive.
The Norwegian paper said that as early as 2013, Deputy Chief of Police for Oslo, Gro Smogeli, singled out Zahoor as a ringleader of one of “Norway's boldest and biggest bank frauds ever; the so-called Nordea Swindle and further Farooq Zahoor is said to be wanted internationally by Norwegian police and Interpol for his leading role in this scam.
“The Borgarting Court of Appeal announced its unanimous verdict on 26 November confirming reasonable grounds to suspect the 40-year-old of fraud, as part of organised criminal activity subject to Norway’s mafia activities.”
According to the paper, the suspect is wanted for running a fake bank in Switzerland.
The paper says Umar Farooq Zahoor portrays himself as a busy and prosperous businessman. His base of operations in the past nine years has been Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He has been living there in a luxurious mansion in one of Dubai’s most fashionable neighbourhoods, as new luxury cars appear in his garage from time to time.
Four months after Ameri Group made its deal with Ghana, the company is still not listed on the list of tenants in the office building called Emgate Building, which consists of business offices and apartments in Dubai where the group claims to be located, according to VG.
“VG has been in contact with the employees of a medical centre in the same building. They have never heard of the company,” it pointed out.
Last summer, GE, which builds the turbines, sold eight identical ones to Sonelgaz, the state energy company in Algeria, for 161 million dollars.
When reached via telephone, Dr Kwabena Donkor confirmed to DAILY GUIDE that he had also heard about the publication but said the ministry would give its official reaction in the course of the week.
According to the minister, not a dime had been paid the company yet. “There would be a proper response from the ministry of power. However, I have to say we signed a BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) contract with a Dubai-based energy company. The gentleman under reference witnessed the contract which was signed by a Dubai Prince.
“We have not paid for the plant. If we had $510m to pay, it would have been easier to pay for the purchase price.
“If you take a lease or a mortgage and someone comes to say if you had purchased the house outright, it would have cost you 100 cedis but you are not paying 200 cedis or more over the lifetime of the house or better still, if I say it is cheaper to buy a car outright than to lease, the first question would be whether you have the money to buy the house outright,” he said.
However, with the turbines ferried to Ghana, the country will soon honour its obligations to the contract which DAILY GUIDE will publish tomorrow.