The man believed to be the brain behind the National Communications Authority (NCA) $8 million contract that brought in ‘spying and phone tapping’ gadgets for the National Security Secretariat (NSS) from Israel is said to be at large.
According to the Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, the Deputy National Security Coordinator during the John Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Alhaji Salifu Osman, has gone into hiding following claims that the NCA Board members shared $4 million out of the total contract sum among themselves unlawfully.
Alhaji Osman, who is being investigated for other ‘dubious’ transactions, may soon be declared wanted if he continues to stay in hiding, sources told reveal.
The last time the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) was said to have reached the security capo on phone was when he told the Bureau about the whereabouts of the gadgets.
Sources say Alhaji Osman, who until his appointment by then President Mahama was a director at the Ministry of the Interior, had told the BNI that the gadgets were languishing in somebody’s garage in Accra.
Mr Mustapha Hamid has said that the security capo’s village at Salaga in the Northern Region has been combed but he could not be traced, adding that investigations are showing that he was the ‘architect’ behind the whole deal.
The contract was meant to buy ‘spying and phone tapping’ equipment for the National Security Secretariat, but $4 million out of the total amount of $8 million ended up in private accounts, with $1.5 million of the money going to the NCA board of directors.
Already, the former Board Chairman of the NCA, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, who is a younger brother of Seinti Baffoe-Bonnie – then senior staffer to former President John Dramani Mahama – has reportedly started returning his share of the money he and his colleagues unlawfully pocketed in that dodgy transaction.
The Information Minister had said that Mr Baffoe-Bonnie was paying $40,000 out of his share of $200,000.
Baffoe-Bonnie did not pick his calls when we attempted to reached him for his side of the story.
Last week, after reportedly admitting that they took $4 million unlawfully from the state kitty, some former members of the board of the NCA said they were prepared to refund the cash when they appeared before the BNI.
The $4 million was meant to pay an Israeli company which had a contract with the NDC government.
According to the Information Minister, John Mahama’s NDC government had contracted NSO Group Technology Limited of Israel to supply eavesdropping gadgets worth $6 million and the equipment were meant to help the government monitor the calls of suspected terrorists.
In the course of the transaction, Mustapha Hamid said a local agent – Infraloks Development Limited – headed by one George Oppong, charged $2 million as facilitation fee, bringing the total amount to $8 million.
The NCA, with instruction from the National Security, made $4 million part-payment into the private account of the local agent of the Israeli company at Ecobank and subsequently transferred $1 million to the company in Israel.
The $3 million left in the account was then split into two, with less than half going into the pockets of board members and the chairman allegedly taking the lion’s share of $200,000.
Records are showing that apart from Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie, the NCA Director-General, William Mathew Tevie, allegedly took home $150,000; the local agent, George Oppong, reportedly had $100,000; Alhaji Salifu Osman, the Deputy National Security Coordinator, was allegedly given $70,000 and Dr. Nana Owusu–Ensaw, another board member, purportedly took home $500,000 to be shared with other unnamed persons.
The information minister said that if political power did not shift, he was sure nobody would have known about what he described as a classic case of ‘create, loot and share.’
According to the minister, National Security, which did not have the funds for the equipment, allowed the NCA with supervisory mandate over such gadgets, to fund the project.
While the Israeli suppliers were groaning for their money for the equipment supplied from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, the former board members were gloating with free state cash.
He said apart from Alhaji Osman, the others had admitted to the crime and had been given bail after the BNI had interrogated them.
The minister said George Oppong had refunded $1 million while others had also promised to refund everything.
“BNI hasn’t even decided at this stage because they believe that the money must be returned. … If they succeed in retrieving the money then they will decide their next action,” Mr Hamid said.
According to him, the transaction was a clear case of top officials colluding to plunder the state coffers.
“The reason why this is a classic case of ‘create, loot and share’ is that…it was basically Alhaji Osman, acting as Deputy National Security Coordinator, who spearheaded this deal. …People cannot just go and open a state vault and take whatever that is in there,” the minister cautioned.
He said the government is waiting for the outcome of the BNI probe into the matter to take a decision on the fate of the culprits.
“Investigations are a long process, and as the lawyers will tell you, an act of criminality ought to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and so my understanding from the BNI is that they haven’t completed the investigations. They’ve gone beyond the statements and the admission and the paying back of the money that they have started,” he explained.
“There are other things that ought to be established, but for now the concentration is on retrieving the money; that cannot be the end of the case, but investigations will determine at what point they believe that they gathered all the facts that will enable them make a convincing case before a judge or any judicial panel they may be made to face,” he said.
By William Yaw Owusu