UK SFO Throws Out Akufo-Addo & NPP’s Airbus Bribery Case Godfred Yeboah Dame Gets Eggs In His Face

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame

The Airbus bribery raised by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo and the ex-Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, has collapsed with the UK Serious Fraud Office, dropping the charges against those reported to them by the government as having been recipients of bribe money.

A UK citizen, who was named as a suspect in the Airbus scandal, Phil Middlemiss, has had all charges against him dropped by the UK Serious Fraud Office after months of investigation by the UK anti-graft body.

The President had in February last year, petitioned the Office of the Special Prosecutor, informing it about allegations of bribery in the acquisition of three military aircraft by the government between 2009 and 2015.

"We have officially written to the Office of the Special Prosecutor this morning, drawing his attention to the allegations. As a constitutionally mandated body, we expect him to take it up."

Just last week, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has assured the new Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng that he will not hesitate to collaborate with him in big corruption-related issues that are still unresolved.

He said issues like the infamous Airbus scandal which rocked the country in early 2020 and all others outstanding, that were filed before the Office of the previous Special Prosecutor will be worked on.

The Attorney General (AG) gave the assurance when the new Special Prosecutor called on him yesterday to discuss issues affecting the anti-graft office.

He said, "I am aware that there were certain cases referred to the Office of the Special Prosecutor that have been left untouched. The Airbus scandal is one of such cases. It is unhealthy for democracy and the rule of law if such issues are not settled. It erodes public confidence. It is in the interest of the public for all the issues to be unraveled."

But Middlemiss disclosed to the UK Mirror that three months ago, after more than two years of investigation, he has finally been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Airbus SE scandal "following a review of the evidence".

This development could likely affect Ghana's case against the man who had been declared wanted in Ghana along with two others for the Airbus scandal.

It also could make it difficult for Ghana's Special Prosecutor who is relying on the UK SFO to get anyone in Ghana or the UK prosecuted over the Airbus SE scandal, experts suggest.

The OSP then headed by Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu upon completion of a "preliminary investigation", said he was inviting a UK/Ghanaian citizen Samuel Adam Foster alias Samuel Adam Mahama and UK nationals; Philip Sean Middlemiss; Sarah Davis and Sarah Furneaux.

A public notice by the OSP said the individuals identified by acronym in the Statement of Facts and accepted as findings of fact in a judgement of the UK Crown Court are to assist in the investigation of corruption and corruption-related offences in the purchase of the Aircraft.

Speaking to the UK Mirror, the first time Middlemiss is ever speaking about the matter publicly since the multi-billion pound international bribery scandal broke, Mr. Middlemiss said the Airbus scandal and its attendant publicity caused him so much damage and is only now trying to put his life back together having been diagnosed with PTSD.

Middlemiss detailed the role he came to play for Airbus- the company sought them out in early 2010 for their assistance with the sale of their C-295 aircraft to Ghana to be handled on a commission basis.

"My role was to help the Airbus staff in the country to facilitate meetings, transport and arrange visas on arrival as they usually needed to travel at short notice. I would be paid on a commission basis following the successful sale of its planes."

Phil claims no illegal incentives were offered to him during his work for Airbus, nor did he offer any to anyone else. He says: "I never received one single penny and thank God I didn't. As it goes they never offered it."

Even though they visited Airbus HQ in Paris, Phil insists he and his friends covered costs, driven both by the commission and the promise of work with Airbus long term. He says: "We were doing it for a commission. When you are working with one of the biggest aviation companies in the world, you expect them to know what they are doing."

Phil is now planning to take legal action against the SFO and sue for damages. His lawyer Adam Rasul, CEO of Holborn Adams, says: "The poor investigation by the SFO and subsequent no further action has had a catastrophic impact on Mr Middlemiss. We are advising him on an action against the SFO along with civil remedies that include psychological/psychiatric damage."

"It's amazing someone like myself could go out there and get wrapped up in this," says the 58-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing. "Suddenly I went from being a rogue on the cobbles to 'lord of war', according to one of the African newspapers."

The actor has spent the past two years facing possible prosecution by the UK's Serious Fraud Office in relation to allegations of bribery and corruption and the £50 million sales of three C-295 military planes by global aerospace giant Airbus to the Ghanaian government. "It's been a complete, utter nightmare," he says.

"I have felt despair and helplessness. During the heat of all this, there didn't seem to be any way out."

Following the publication of the international investigation's report on Airbus two years, Ghana's then special prosecutor Martin Amidu launched a separate probe, announcing the identities of those alleged to be involved, including former president John Mahama, Phil, and three other British nationals.

Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, was alleged to have paid bribes in Ghana when it sold the three military aircraft. The aerospace multinational admitted hiring the brother of a top elected Ghanaian official as its consultant for the pitch to sell the aircraft to the country.

Again, Airbus confessed paying the said consultant through a third party when its Compliance Unit raised red flags about the close relationship between the consultant and the top elected official, who was a key decision maker in the purchase of the military aircraft.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, announced that he had referred the judgment of a court in the United Kingdom (UK), in which the European multinational aerospace corporation had been fined $3.9 billion for the payment of bribes to secure deals in several countries, including Ghana, to the Special Prosecutor.

The judgment was issued in February by the Crown Court at Southwark, UK, in a case between the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the UK and Airbus SE.

A statement signed by the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin, said facts in the case between 2009 and 2015 indicated that "a number of Airbus employees made or promised success-based commission payments of approximately €5 million to Intermediary 5", who is said to be "a close relative of a high ranking elected Ghanaian government official (Government Official 1)".

It quoted the judgment, which stated: "Government Official 1 was a key decision maker in respect of government of Ghana aircraft orders."

When the issue went viral on both social and traditional media, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) issued a statement, signed by a former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice during the Mahama administration, Ms Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, denying any wrongdoing.

"The reports alleging that Airbus SE paid bribes during the administration of President John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama were false, misleading and did not reflect the approved judgment.

"Indeed, the approved judgment of the Crown Court of Southwark approving the DPA between Airbus and the UK Serious Fraud Office does not allege that any payment was made by Airbus to any Ghanaian government official," it added.

The NPP has also reacted to the Airbus bribery allegation and asked former President John Dramani Mahama to speak to the issue.

Referring to the judgement, the statement from the Director of Communications at the Presidency added that the payments to Intermediary 5 by officials of Airbus SE were thus "intended to induce or reward improper favour by Government Official 1" over the purchase of three C-295 military transport aircraft. Indeed, out of the €5 million promised Intermediary 5, €3.85 million was paid between March 2012 and February 2014".

"President Akufo-Addo has taken notice of the judgement and its implications and has referred it to the Office of the Special Prosecutor to collaborate with its UK counterpart to conduct a prompt inquiry to determine the complicity or otherwise of any Ghanaian government official, past or present, involved in the said scandal and to take the necessary legal action against any such official, as required by Ghanaian law."

According to US and UK court documents, Airbus had been under investigations by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the SFO of the UK and the Parquet National Financier (PNF) of France.

This came to light after nearly four years of investigations by authorities in the US, the UK and France into the business operations of Airbus, which culminated in the company being fined $3.9 billion for its corrupt practices in Ghana, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Taiwan within the same period.

The $3.9-billion fine imposed on Airbus is one of the largest in the world against a corporate body.

The US, the UK and France authorities imposed the fine in a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which is essentially a corporate plea bargain that helped the company to avoid criminal prosecution.

However, prosecutors from the three countries said employees of the company found culpable could face prosecution.

Airbus was found guilty of failing to prevent its employees and others associated with the company from bribing officials during deals for the purchase of its aircraft and other products and also for breaking US export regulations with regard to its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The DPA was approved in separate judgments by the Queen's Bench Division of the UK Crown Court at Southwark and the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Court documents published by the DOJ of the US and the SFO of the UK revealed how Airbus employed different tactics to bribe officials in many countries, including Ghana, in order to secure lucrative contracts.

In the case of Ghana, Airbus allegedly paid more than €3 million through a third party.

"In fact, Airbus and its vendors had paid, offered or agreed to pay political contributions, fees or commissions in connection with these sales in the amount of at least €3,596,523," the facts, as presented by the DOJ to the District Court in the USA, stated.

According to the DOJ's facts, a high ranking elected official, which the document mentioned as "Individual 1" (who was in office from 2009 to 2016), made direct contact with the Airbus management about the purchase of the aircraft a few months after he took office.

"Individual 1 was influential in having the government of Ghana approve aircraft purchases and Individual 1 contacted Airbus senior executives during the government approval process. In 2011, during Individual 1's time in office, the Ghanaian Parliament approved the purchase of C-295 aircraft," the facts said.

As part of the sale of the aircraft to Ghana, the DOJ said, Airbus contracted the brother of "Individual 1", who was named as "Consultant 4", to act as the third-party agent of the company during the sale of the aircraft.

"Airbus purposefully sought to engage Consultant 4 due to his closeness to Individual 1, and the Airbus management included Consultant 4 in its communications with Individual 1. Airbus used Consultant 4 as a conduit for messages intended for Individual 1. Consultant 4 traded on his access to Individual 1," the DOJ said.

In an official reaction posted on its website, Airbus stated that the DPA reached with the authorities in the US, the UK and France concluded all investigations into its activities by the three countries.

According to the company, the outcome was as a result of the "reporting, cooperation and new compliance standards at Airbus" and added that it was "determined to conduct its businesses with integrity".

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Airbus, Mr Guillaume Faury, said the company had learnt many lessons from the incident.