A top Norwegian private newspaper VG, has claimed that former President John Dramani Mahama is fronting for the controversial Africa Middle East Resources Investment Group LLC (AMERI) in Namibia, although Mr. Mahama has denied the deal.
Mahama’s erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government signed a $520 million deal with AMERI for the supply of 256 mw of electricity in 2015 in the heat of the energy crisis, but it turned out to be a rip-off, with Ghana losing about $150 million to the Dubai-based company.
It has since become a subject of heated debate as to whether or not the contract should be abrogated, and it heightened after Mahama’s government was voted out of office in December 2016 – when the deal was uncovered.
According to the award-winning newspaper (VG), the former president had refused to confirm or deny his involvement or otherwise in AMERI in Namibia, which is believed to be owned by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmouk al Maktoum of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
According to VG, it had followed the story for more than two years.
The report was posted on VG’s website: www.vg.no by the newspaper’s journalists – ROLF J. WIDERØE, AMUND BAKKE FOSS and SYNNØVE ÅSEBØ – on Saturday, November 11, at 09:31 and updated at 15:33 on the same day.
According to the newspaper, former President Mahama travelled to Namibia in July with two representatives of the controversial AMERI Group to discuss energy opportunities.
In 2015, the newspaper revealed that Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is still wanted by Norwegian police for fraud, and a sheikh from Dubai had made an energy deal with the Ghanaian government that included an overcharge of the contract sum by $150 million.
“Today VG can reveal that the former Ghanaian president this July entered into a cooperative arrangement with the sheikh’s company. John Mahama brought the two men representing the sheikh to Namibia – seeking to clinch possible energy deals with yet another African nation: Namibia,” the paper stated.
According to VG, “This July, Mahama travelled to the Namibian capital, Windhoek, with employees of the ‘private office’ of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmouk al Maktoum of Dubai, United Arab Emirates,” adding , “This company now owns the AMERI Group, also known as the Africa Middle East Resources Investment Group LLC.”
It said, “According to Namibian officials, Mahama claimed he was in Windhoek as an advocate for the African Development Bank. At a news conference after Mahama’s meeting with Namibian President, Hage Geingob, the former Ghanaian leader appeared with two men professionally based in Dubai.
“Until now, it has not been officially known who these men were. But VG can now reveal their identities: One was AMERI Group CEO, Maher Al Alili, who is also CEO of the sheikh’s private office. The other was Mustafa Ahmed, who left behind a business card in Namibia embossed with the logo of the sheikh’s office.
“They both work for the sheikh who signed the controversial AMERI deal together with Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is wanted internationally by Interpol.”
The paper recounted the Phillip Addison-led 17-member committee set up by the current Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, to look into the AMERI deal.
Namibian Spokesperson’s Revelation
“In an interview with VG at the end of October, Albertous Aochamub, a spokesman for Namibia’s president, provided new and striking information: Mahama himself set up the meeting in Namibia and arranged for the sheikh’s representatives to join him.
“A letter requesting an audience with the Namibian president was sent via the Namibian Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation from the office of former President Mahama, as is customary practice,” Aocham tells the Norwegian newspaper.
The two gentlemen were said to have been introduced by Mr John Mahama (as working for) the Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook al Maktoum. They were introduced as Mr Mustafa Ahmed and Mr Maher Al Alili. The names of the two gentlemen or the name of the company were not mentioned in the letter from former President Mahama.
“– Among his delegation were these two gentlemen, as well as the former High Commissioner of Ghana to Namibia, Alhaji A. R. Haruna Attah,” Aocham adds, then continues:
“– Mahama informed President Geingob that he was in Namibia in his capacity as an AfDB (African Development Bank) advocate for African self-sufficiency in energy and brought UAE representatives to Namibia after they identified the country as one of the most attractive destinations for electricity infrastructure investments.
“Since July there has been no further contact between the parties.
”One of the men, Mustafa Ahmed, denies to VG that he had a role in the Namibia visit.
“I do not work for his highnesses private office,” he says.
– So what happened in Namibia?
“I advise several groups, not just them,” he replies.
”Nothing happened in Namibia, so if you want to make a big story, that’s up to you?”
– But the sheikh’s logo and your number appear on the same business card. How do you explain that?
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I have nothing to hide. I know him. I have advised him and advised him, but I do not work for him. I do not have an official position with him,” insists Ahmed.
A few days later, the company’s CEO, Maher Al Alili, contacted VG and threatened a lawsuit. In 2015 the company had threatened to sue VG for $150 million for its reporting on the controversial electrical power deal between Ghana and AMERI Group.
The company said VG had published false claims about Umar Farooq Zahoor, the man who signed the AMERI agreement and is still wanted internationally.
“Who gave you the right to write about Umar?” asked Al Alili, on telephone from Dubai.
“If there is anything wrong with the story, we have the option of suing you,” he says.
“The company does not want to be open with information or grant interviews with the media.”
Al Alili nevertheless confirmed that he was in Namibia working for the sheikh’s office.
He refused to comment on Mahama’s ties to the Dubai company.
“You’ll have to ask Mahama about that,” said Al Alili.
“For seven weeks VG has tried to make direct contact with Ghana’s former president in order to obtain comments. His special advisor, the lawyer Joyce Bawah-Mogtari, confirms that Mahama has received VG’s inquiry.
“Of course, Mr Mahama sees any request that arrives. I am telling you he is not available, and that I will get back to you if he becomes available,” the special advisor told VG in mid-October. VG’s many queries have not been well received by the ex-president’s inner circle.
“He has no obligation to give you an interview. You can’t force Mr Mahama to talk to you. Can you force the King of Norway to give you an interview?” she queried.
The Ameri Group has repeatedly denied that Umar Farooq Zahoor – the man who signed the controversial energy agreement with Ghana in 2015 – is wanted internationally by law enforcement authorities.
That is not the case.
“He is still wanted by the police internationally,” Norwegian district attorney, Carl Graff Hartmann, confirmed to VG.
“We have received a response from the United Arab Emirates stating they will not grant our request for the extradition of Umar Farooq Zahoor,” he continued.
That means the UAE has refused to turn over the internationally wanted man, who has a Pakistani passport, to Norway.
Zahoor himself has claimed he no longer works for AMERI Group, though VG has disclosed that he still plays a key role in the sheikh’s private office, which owns the company.
This was also confirmed by a PR officer at the sheikh’s office.
“Yes, he is working there,” said Ahmed al Baloushi to VG.
In September, Zahoor travelled to Pakistan with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmouk al Maktoum and CEO Maher Al Alili to further discuss yet another AMERI-related deal with Pakistani company, FWO.
By William Yaw Owusu