via Bribery scandal: Investor had 5 passports – DailyNews Live by Gift Phiri 26 FEBRUARY 2014
Ghanaian businessman William Atto Essien travelled on at least five valid passports, a crack team of Zimbabwean detectives was told in the West African country.
This comes amid revelations that the self-styled tycoon, who has been at the centre of a $6 million bribery scandal, had issued a fake $10 million debenture agreement to boost Bill Minerals (Bill)’s financial capacity in the Gye Nyame Resources (GNR) joint venture.
And as Chief Superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma’s team landed in Accra for statements, and to verify certain aspects on the secretive transaction Essien even tried to rope in the Ghanaian intelligence and president’s office to fend off inquiries from the local police.
This gives credence to a Daily News expose — run yesterday — that the probe into ex-Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairperson Goodwills Masimerembwa’s bribery scandal virtually hit a dead end after the Bill director had all, but frustrated police investigations into the matter.
In that episode, it was not only reported that the First Capital Plus (FCP) promoter’s August 2011 travel account was contradictory in nature, but he had also repeatedly failed to acknowledge Zimbabwean police calls to his South African, and Ghanaian mobile phones as well as e-mails.
However, Essien would pick calls by his top lieutenants, including GNR managing director Albert Adomako on the same numbers — official reports, which could have also forced President Robert Mugabe to eat his September 2013 words or remarks indicate.
And subsequent to the October 2013 visit by Nyamupaguma’s nine-member group, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) team — with the help of Accra’s National Crime Bureau (NCB) and several other authorities — made some shocking discoveries about the FCP boss.
Firstly, the Ghanaian immigration department stated that Essien was a holder of five passports with the following numbers: H134 9632 and expiring FROM P1in March this year, G016 6735, G035 6194 and H210 2770 (both ending in 2017, and G060 8680 expiring in September 2018.
On the other hand, the country’s revenue and customs authority categorically stated that the Bill boss’s female acquaintance Emelia Hutchful — travelling under passport number H091 3387 — did not check in any bags or luggage when she left Kotoka International Airport for Kenya on August 01, 2011.
As such, the story that the pair was carrying a bagful of cash when they entered Zimbabwe was at best suspicious, if not spurious.
While Ghanaian nationals are prohibited from carrying money in excess of $10 000 when leaving their country, a police trial run when the detectives landed back in Harare indicated that $6 million could not fit in a medium-sized travel case — as stated by customs official Benita Chitofu.
Essentially, this and many other discrepancies were to prove Essien’s Achilles Heel, and demise — and inevitably Masimirembwa’s escape.
For instance, Nyamupaguma’s team witnessed how the self-styled tycoon snubbed efforts by the NCB’s Naume Acqua to fix an appointment for key statements via a phone call.
After promising to meet the joint Zimbabwean and Ghanaian investigative teams on October 22 last year, Essien simply started dilly-dallying and failed to pitch up for scheduled meetings. He even flew or went to South Africa for “some business” when he knew Nyamupaguma’s team was in Accra to help him and get his side of the story.
But as Zimbabweans try to digest Mugabe’s stinging attack on the West Africans, a raft of reports — commissioned around October 2013 and post the nonagenarian’s outburst against Masimirembwa — portray the Bill promoters as a bunch of “crooks” out to profit from illegal gold and gem deals.
For instance, Essien and company not only reneged on a promise to inject $110 million-plus as working capital for the mine, but largely transacted in cash for most of their businesses here.
According to a September 2011 to July 2013 audit report, close to
$3 million of GNR funds was used for unrelated business and the company was wracked by poor accounting.
In fact, a huge portion of the company’s cash was used for Kingsley Ghansah’s criminal case.
The duo, it turns out, was illegally trading in precious minerals through Red Mercury and Premier Capital — a bogus value-addition firm fronted by Zimbabweans.
Convicted to five years and for possessing eight kilogrammes of pure gold, Ghansah has a pending arrest warrant after skipping appeals bail.
As things stand, there are also lingering questions about Essien’s half-brother Eric Osei’s role in the gold and diamond shenanigans, and just as people wonder as to how Adomako had obtained his residency papers when there were no Zimbabwe Investment Authority approvals for the venture.
And at a time when Essien and Bill were expected to pump significant amounts of money into GNR — 50 percent owned by government, 30 by GNR and another 20 percent in police hands — the diamond venture resorted to local borrowings involving Ecobank Zimbabwe and Metbank Limited.
As the situation deteriorated to a point that creditors topped $7 million, the indigenous partners Itayi Munyeza and Blessmore Chanakira’s Dantor Investments (Dantor) tried all it could to rescue the operation.
However, the Dantor consortium was pushed out in subsequent squabbles over the concession.
According to the reports, Essien and company had virtually neglected the Marange concession through underfunding and misappropriation of cash.
But prior to the official and independent investigations into the $6 million saga, Harare businessman Manson Mnaba’s board was the first to drill holes into the FCP co-founder’s story.
After determining that Essien’s companies had not invested anything beyond $8,5 million, the board recommended that the West Africans be booted out of the concession.
While the courageous and principled position was to prove the turning point for GNR’s change of fortunes, Mnaba’s team went on to identify a more competent investor — although it is still unknown what the outcome of this exercise and recommendation was.
Crucially, the board’s position came after official reports had stated that Masimirembwa’s ZMDC had proceeded to court the Ghanaians, and yet a number of earlier due diligences had rubbished or discounted FCP’s capacity to invest in the Chiadzwa-based miner.
So bad was Essien’s ways that Bill was accused of circulating a joint venture agreement exonerating it of any obligation to sufficiently capitalise the mine when the original document stated as such.