Consuming news in Ghana makes one numb to corruption. So, I was not the least surprised when I finished reading the judgement of the Crown Court at Southwark, UK, on what is now known as the Airbus scandal.
The Crown Court described the actions of Airbus in the judgement as “grave” in paragraph 5 and emphasized in paragraph 64 that the “seriousness of the criminality in this case hardly needs to be spelled out. As is acknowledged on all sides, it was grave.”
Airbus’ sin was that “between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015” the company “failed to prevent persons associated” with it “from bribing others concerned with the purchase of military transport aircraft by the Government of Ghana…”
The bribes were “intended to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business for Airbus SE.”
Erring on the side of simplicity, the meat of the judgement indicated that a Ghanaian citizen, who is the brother of a formerly highly placed government official, was used by Airbus as a front to “induce” the government official to buy aircrafts from the company. The government official was referred to as Government Official 1.
The Ghanaian citizen who is a UK national received the money through a company he and other two British nationals founded in Ghana and in the UK with the intent of forwarding the so-called commission to this government official.
The deal went through. The aircrafts were purchased and the matter would not have resurfaced if courts in Britain, US and France had not investigated the “grave” acts of Airbus.
Analysis about who this government official may be, points a finger to an influential politician in this country. If this person acknowledges involvement in this scandal, the consequences will be damning. Not just political careers and reputations but possibly mouths will cease from being fed.
It is, therefore, not amazing that the spinning machines of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are grinding hard. But don’t be fooled. Regardless of how patchy a situation may be there can never be two truths.
The NPP is taking full advantage of the situation to consolidate its grip on power. The party wants former President John Mahama, the only strong contender of the NPP, to “come out and be heard publicly” on the issue.
However, the NDC through people such as Joyce Bawa Mogtari and Sammy Gyamfi have categorically indicated that “no bribes were paid to any Ghanaian officials” and that the grave acts of Airbus were “criminal infractions by employees and agents of Airbus and nothing more,” respectfully.
But the Judge in her judgement wrote that “Bribery usually involves two sides: those willing to pay a bribe and those willing to take a bribe.”
If the court has established that Airbus paid a bribe then someone took a bribe.
Therefore, how and why Bawa Mogtari claims that Airbus’ payment of more than €3.5 billion in fines to a “criminal conduct” did not indicate an “admission” of guilt beats the mind.
The claim is just farcical and diversionary. Its aim is to create an impression that no wrong was done by “any past Ghanaian Government Official”.
Indeed, no Ghanaian name was directly mentioned in the judgement. Same was the case for the numerous countries hit by this scandal. But some of these countries such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia have started investigations into the matter to help them find the culprits.
These countries are swiftly ensuring that actions that retrogress their nations are punished regardless of the individuals involved.
That is why this matter presents a unique and golden opportunity for us to make the abnormal normal. The abnormal being that, there has been the notion that certain kinds of people are above the law.
Even though a formal revelation of who Government Official 1 is, has not been made. It is doubtless that this person is a “BIG FISH.” The prosecution of such a person will not end corruption in this country but I’m of the opinion that it will instill some fear in those who flout the laws of the land with impunity and will make the abnormal normal.
It is very important to also know that the judgement indicated that a correspondence between the Ghanaian citizen, used as a front by Airbus and a “senior” Airbus employee, shows that the deal was “agreed at all levels” and Parliament was expected to rubberstamp.
The levels were the Government official 1, Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance. What did all these “levels” know about the deal?
Only proper investigations will unearth the grave infractions done to this nation.
This article is written by Kofi Boateng ([email protected]) , a student journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.