The UK and Corruption in Ghana 53


British High Commissioner Nick Westcott is not afraid to step in to controversy. Having boldly told us that Vodafone did nothing wrong in their acquisition of Ghana Telecom, he now lectures Ghana that incoming governments must respect contracts entered into by the outgoing government.

Of course, that is true. As a general point, it is a simple statement of the legal position.

But we all know that Dr Westcott did not mean it as a general point. He meant that investigations into contracts including Kosmos and Vodafone must be stopped. Otherwise, he warned, investor confidence would be damaged ?” a warning that foreigners would take their dollars elsewhere.

But what is the logic of this position? No government may question any contract entered into by a predecessor, no matter how corruptly? That if you are a dreadfully corrupt foreign businessman, who has bribed a minister, you only have to hang on until the government changes, and then you cannot be investigated? Plainly this is a nonsense.

The fact is that, as detailed in a series of articles in the Financial Times of London, there are a whole number of questions about the Kosmos deal which give experienced observers great cause for concern.

One which particularly worries me is how, on the best oilfield in Ghana, Kosmos were able to get a royalty rate of only 5%, when the average on other fields is over 11%. There are suggestions that partners from EO were active on the Ghanaian government side of the negotiation.

There are also credible stories of Kosmos handing EO millions of dollars in cash notes for “marketing and publicity”.

Is Ghana forbidden from investigation because the government has changed? No, and they must not be bullied out of it by the British, Americans, IMF or World Bank. Those will always back wealthy Western companies against a developing African nation.

The Vodafone deal suffered ?” at the very least ?” from a lack of transparency and a lack of a level playing field for others ?” including France Telecom ?” who wished to compete. The final sales price was definitely too cheap.

I would like to know how Ghana Airways’ invaluable routes were awarded to GIA – a bunch of obscure and inexperienced investors who came only fourth in the official assessment of bids. The result has been the almost total disappearance of Ghana’s whole aviation industry.

I would like to know how industrial development funds were given to a network of companies the ultimate ownership of which traced back to the Minister of


The British High Commissioner has the problem entirely backwards. It is not that the government is not honouring existing contracts. I am Chairman of several companies, including Atholl Energy. Atholl had a contract with the NPP government which has been honoured by the NDC government, because we carry our our work diligently and honestly.

The problem is that where contracts are not honest, action has not been fast enough or decisive enough to root out corruption.

Two of the worst examples are in the energy sector. Let us look at the case of another British company, Zakhem International Ltd. They are building the Kpone Power Project for VRA.

VRA bought the turbines from the manufacturer, Alsthom for US $70 million. They then paid Zakhem US $80 million upfront to install them and provide the ancillary equipment.

After three years, what do Ghanaian taxpayers have to show for their US $150 million? Absolutely nothing. An empty field at Kpone, surrounded by Ghana’s longest concrete wall so the Ghanaian public cannot see that their money has been stolen.

What is happening about it? Nothing, because Zakhem and their Ghanaian partners have stolen enough money to bribe all the officials involved. They are now claiming around town that the new government is also “In their pocket”.

Most of the $80 million has vanished forever, while the $70 million turbines are now badly damaged by disuse.

Or look at Balkan Energy. They claimed to have spent US $100 million on refurbishing the Osagyefo barge, at a time when they had really spent less than US10 million.

Under an astonishingly corrupt contract, Balkan are to lease the barge for $10 million per year, from the government of Ghana, but then charge Ghana over $40 million per year for its use as a “Capacity charge”. They will in addition charge the government of Ghana for the fuel, and make a profit on that too.

It is as if I rented your car from you for 100 Ghana cedis a month, then rented it back to you for 500 Ghana cedis a month plus charging you a premium on all the petrol you use.

Balkan stand to make a total of about $1.5 billion dollars in profit from the people of Ghana from this terrible deal. It is the most corrupt contract I have ever seen. It is astonishing that a country like Ghana would enter into a contract with Balkan, whose owner, Gene E Phillips, has stood trial as a gangster in the United States.

These are not crimes without a victim. Everyone who pays any VAT or other tax in Ghana is putting money into the pockets of these disgraceful conmen. Most of the taxpayers of Ghana are very poor, and the money is being taken by people who are very rich.

That is why I am speaking out. I am not supporting any political party. I am supporting the ordinary people of Ghana.

I first spoke out about corruption in Ghana back in 1999, when I was Deputy High Commissioner there. It caused a sensation in the Ghanaian media at the time. But people do not know that I was nearly sacked by the British government as a result.

The British government did not object at all to my attacking corruption in Ghana. The reason I was nearly sacked was because I said “Sadly some British companies have been involved in this corruption”. I was carpeted by the British government and told I must never mention British companies’ corruption.

At the time I was thinking of the British company International Generics Ltd and their involvement in scams over the La Palm and Coco Palm hotels.

The hypocrisy of the British government in defending corrupt British companies was most famously seen when Tony Blair ordered an end to a prosecution of the arms company BAE over massive bribes they had paid in Saudi Arabia. Blair declared that prosecuting BAE was not “In the national interest”.

Last week BAE again escaped criminal prosecution and were allowed to pay a fine instead, for corruption in Africa including Tanzania.

So Nick Westcott is only continuing a British hypocritical tradition of condemning corruption, unless it is British corruption.

The truth is that sadly there was a major increase in corruption in Ghana especially in 2007 and 2008. That was a major reason why the Ghanaian people voted to change their government. But so far there is little indication that the new government has done much to root out the corruption.

The danger in this is that ordinary people will become disillusioned with the political process.

Ghanaians are not stupid. People know who stole money, and they see them swanning around town in their fancy cars, unashamedly living the highlife. This can corrupt society. Young people can easily draw the conclusion that the way to make money is to be a corrupt politician or a drugs dealer.

The further danger is that, just like in Nigeria, they conclude that all the politicians of all the parties are into the corruption, and that is why everyone gets away with it.

I did not used to think that was true in Ghana, but I really am beginning to wonder, unless we see some effective action soon.

So rather than protecting the corrupt, the British High Commissioner should be offering help and assistance actively to attack corruption. That includes corruption by British companies.

He should also remember that, with oil revenues within touching distance, Ghana will soon have her own investment funds and no longer be so dependent on foreign investors. It is not for the colonial master to kick Ghana. The boot will soon be on the other foot.

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53 thoughts on “The UK and Corruption in Ghana

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  • A Gyamfi


    Your article is full of hot air and no substance. How many corrupt British companies did you manage to expose under your watch in Ghana? I think people like you pose a big threat to democracy in Africa. I think your motive for writing such unsubstantiated article is to nurse some sort of agitation in the country to scupper efforts to firmly establish democracy in Ghana and Africa as a whole. I bet you will beat your chest in triumph and say “I told you so” if tomorrow some misinformed adventurist took up their guns to boot out the elected government. The history of democracy in the West is no different from what is happening in Africa. The parliament house in your native Scotland was supposed to cost £40million but ended up costing the taxpayer £400 million. You europeans have meddled in Africa for far too long and it was time you leave us to wallow in our ignorance.

  • reith

    Recently, an undercover journalist seeking to expose US corporate gain on the back of American and Iraqi death for the “liberation” of Iraq, asked Richard Perle which companies to invest in that would profit most from the Iraq war.

    Perle said:, “you could invest in my fund”.

    Yes, that’s right. Perle’s running hs own fund of investment opportunities in Iraq.

    It really is that bad, that obvious, that obscene, that this ultra neo-con who plotted the Iraq war and appeared on the BBC as an independent expert on world affairs to argue for the Iraq war is now a financial beneficiary of it.

    What is the BBC, when it is complicit in this corruption in the slaughter of millions of innocents for the financial advantage of neo-con Americans?

    Shouldn’t it be open and honest and have the likes of Perle supporting it financially rather than British taxpayers who derive no benefit from its activities?

  • Alastair Ross

    US oil companies did not gain much from the recent auction of drilling rights in Iraq. However, Malaysia’s state – owned Petronas did feature as a joint venture partner in a winning bid, despite the opposition to the Iraq War of the then Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed.

    Perhaps America’s Big Oil lacked the support of that country’s immensely powerful Jewish Lobby for the simple reason that the oil business, unlike investment banking, isn’t heavily Semitic.

  • Francis

    I remember you from 1999 and the attrition that came on the heels of your bold comment. This piece is revealing but are there any remedies to the Ghanaian tax payer from these “bogus and fraudulent” deals?

  • nana kofi badu

    hi friend

    thank you for being there for us the ordinary Ghanaian,

    thank you again, but for our people in authority, when the time is up we will burn them alive

    please don’t stop monitoring ,

    keep informing us about the wrong doing of our leaders

    we love you .

  • Craig


    Ghana needs a fearless, competent and honest anti corruption unit with wide ranging powers. I suggested to John Mahama before the election he should bring in a unit of first class professionals from some neutral European country, who could not be accused of party bias. If criminal wrongdoing can be proved (which frankly should not be difficult) the contracts could be abrogated.

    Minerals contracts can be abrogated anyway if Ghana asserts its inalienable right to its minerals in customary international law.

  • Kwame Adin Awuyah

    My response to the report of Mr. Craig Murray, the former Deputy British High Commissioner to Ghana, on corruption by UK companies and leading Ghanaian politicians.

    My anger has no limit as I mull over the report of Mr. Craig Murray, a former Deputy British High Commissioner to Ghana (who is also a writer and broadcaster and currently a human rights activist, Rector of the University of Dundee and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law), about British companies, Kosmos, Vodaphone, Zakhem International Ltd., International Generics Ltd. and Balkan Energy, among others, who have conspired with leading Ghanaian politicians in ripping off Ghana in billions of dollars. In a way, I am not shocked at the report on the “hypocrisy of the British government in defending corrupt British companies” in Ghana and other African countries. I am hardly surprised that British politicians, who have made a career of padding their expense accounts at cost to British tax payers, are blindfolded and speechless when confronted with glaring details of the rip-off of Ghana by British companies and Ghanaian politicians. While no country has a hundred percent firewall against corruption, the harm done to fragile economies of developing countries as result of corruption has devastating impact. It is heightened cynicism for British (other Western governments) government to throw crumbs in the form of humanitarian grants (which, in reality, are palliatives for their conscience) to developing countries, when they protect British companies who team with shady politicians to rob the national treasuries and assets of Ghana and other African countries. This cabal of marauding foreign barons and amoral Ghanaian politicians has deprived Ghana of vital resources to invest in healthcare, education, water, power, road, etc. This group is responsible for the needless deaths of Ghanaians from preventable disease; they are accountable for the social problems of the country whereby “young people … easily draw the conclusion that the way to make money is to be a corrupt politician or a drugs dealer”.

    Once in Africa’s history, corrupt chiefs and powerful war lords sold their own people to marauding slave traders. Our history is littered with the untold sufferings from the tragedy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. These heinous acts have continued and intensified. In place of human cargo, today there is transportation and transfer of stolen and ill-gotten wealth from Ghana and other African countries. In Ghana, these problems of corruption are endemic, regardless of the ruling party.

    Ghana’s fledgling democracy stands in danger of being dislodged if Ghanaians are kept hungry because of the thievery of the national resources. Britain and USA would best promote democracy in Ghana if these western countries do not protect their companies and citizens who defraud and rape Ghanaians. These corrupt companies are the equivalent of drug dealers. Just like hidden drug money, the stolen wealth of Ghanaian must be returned so the Ghanaian children can study in buildings and not under trees. The current Ghanaian govern would not measure to its primary responsibility if it does not put priority in investigating in a fair, objective, transparent manner, the allegations made by Mr. Craig Murray. Ghanaians want their stolen wealth in British, Swiss, and American banks to be returned to Ghanaians; Ghanaians want the assets of bought by stolen money from Ghana to be transferred to Ghanaians. In doing less than these demands, Britain would be proclaiming to the world that the principles of fairness, accountability, democracy, probity, and transparency, are relative to their country, and do not apply to fledgling democracies like Ghana and Nigeria.

  • Akwasi Owusu

    Hi Craig,

    If you knew that “sadly there was a major increase in corruption in Ghana especially in 2007 and 2008” as you have written – why were you campaigning for the NPP to retain power as late as October 2008 and indeed why did you donate cash to the NPP campaign.?? For political favours later? or you only got to know now?

  • MqTontoh

    Hello Craig, you must not be surprised then that before the NPP government were voted out of power, a lot of contracts exchanged hands. A new Presidential Palace, the oil contract, Telecoms contract with Vodafone, the new defense ministry building etc…and this is the trend in Ghana before any general elections. Pure coruption and its a shame only few people, like you, will speak up and shame those involved. In the UK where I live, politicians are not the richest but in Ghana they are…some Ghanain politicians are even richer than their counterparts in the UK even though their average salaries is a motor-way mile favourable to the UK minister. These people dont care about Ghana but in themselves. Period!

  • Craig


    I don’t think it is a party problem. I think both main parties have been infected, and that is one reason we are not seeing any effective action.

    But yes, I have learnt a lot that I didn’t know at the time about what was happening in 2007 and 2008, and especially after the death of Baa Wiredu.

    There are good and bad people in both parties and I think the pluralism that changes power from time to time is one of the great things Ghana has going for it.

  • Yo

    I believe we should be grateful for having a fearless personality like Craig Murray, sincerely exposing some of the most heinous corrupt practices his own country men, in collusion with our leaders, inflict on our poor country and others, as he takes a swipe copiously and overtly at his own co-diplomat. Some of our local journalists like Raymond Archer and Kwesi Pratt Jnr. have consistently exposed some of these misdeeds among our politicians. However, their voices have hardly reached far. Indeed, ‘the frogs of our country have croaked of the croc’s ‘underwater’ viciousness, but we have hardly believed them. Now the alligator, a direct cousin of the croc has unambiguously confirmed this under cover dealing. Do we the unamphibious doubt him?’ We have always been bunch with no courage, knowledge and commitment to fight corruption, and so we look on helplessly as our leaders cannibalise our resources to their selfish benefit, to the detriment of the masses, and I wonder how long our beautiful Ghana will continue to endure, these insensitive thrusts, as some corrupt Ghanaian officials and their foreign cohorts, take turns to gang rape of the economy. Can the NDC have the courage, the political will the vision and insight to fight and salvage Ama Ghana from the hands of these perpetrators?

  • Conrad

    So Craig when the British government somehow reprimanded you for saying never say British companies are corrupt with Ghanaians counterparts you kept mute then. Why are you speaking for the so called Ghanaians you claim to speaking for now. Does’t that amount to hypocrisy on your part. Is that your company is now getting favor from this government that you’re making all this revelations. Any how good to know this, at least it should inform our sense of direction in contract administration and the body politic which is FLOODED with VERY SELFISH INDIVIDUALS AND CORRUPT COMPANY OFFICIALS BOTH LOCAL & INTERNATIONAL.

  • the silent democrat

    thanks murray ‘an inspiring piece’ i know people in their right frame of mind would definetly question conscience of leaders supposed to help the ghanaian taxpayers but rather end up killing the ‘innocent’.We Ghanaian know there are more hidden issues which needs questions asked about them ;but to the ordinary Ghanaian would ask ‘how far would my voice go’, they would still cover the DEALDY ISSUES. I decline to comment futher JUDGEMENT DAY WOULD ANSWER THE PLIGHT OF THE ORDINARY GHANAIAN

  • Derrick

    Hi All,

    This issue raised by Craig is a serious issue that is a shame, not only to our leaders, but also to all the scholarly in Ghana who are doing nothing about the nation’s plight. The leadership and selfless service of our leaders are what are being questioned in these corruption allegations. If the leaders, raised by our educational sysytems, are so corrupt in this like, what are we the scholarly doing about it? Lets all begin to investigate the various government contracts and voice out all corrupt leaders. In so doing, we will be fighting for the ordinary uneducated Ghanaian, the poor and our future generation.

  • Sela

    You have no idea how happy some us are that bold men like you are finally taking on the currupt governments in Ghana. What most of your critics dont realise (or maybe they just dont care) is that the poor tax payers are the ones who suffer because some greedy politicians and heartless business persons are seeking their selfish ineterests.

    Thank you Mr. Murray. Your article has put fire under the undeservedly comfortable seats of some our currupt leaders and I hope they get burned. Even if they dont, I think it is still a good start.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Solo

    I am kind of curious Mr. Activist if you are not seeking your own interest. For instances you use the word corruption in almost every thing that happen in Ghana, but you hardly use the word corruption in a a similiar incident that happen in Britain or any developed country. Count it a joy that we gave you a job in Ghana despite your tone of disrespect for the people of Ghana and our democracy. I am not saying Ghana politicians are always right, but they are no different from those in Britain and other developed nations in the world. Ghanaians are not raedy to sacrifice our young democracy for the sack of your belly. Think be4 you write Mr. activities bcos Ghana and its democracy is bigger than your selfish than ur stomach.

  • Akosua Mansa Opoku

    I wonder why Craig Murray decided to expose his own Government’s alleged hypocrisy at this time. Was he sacked or forced to resign? If he had not been sacked would he not be complicit in what was going on in Ghana? The British colonised Ghana. They taught us everything we know. If something is going on that is wrong, we need to look at the solutions. I do not hear Mr Murray provide us with any suggested solutions. So there is a problem, my question is what is he doing about it and what does he suggest we do about it? I did not hear him comment when the Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal broke out last year. Evidence can be shredded or covered up. If he has documentary evidence that can be used to indicte British Companies, he is advised to send it to the Serious Fraud Office. I hope whilst he was in Ghana he did not encourage any of those companies and also that he had no part in their corruption. Thank you.

  • Kwaku, London

    Akosua Mansah,

    I don’t think you have followed all the writings of Mr Murray. In addition to raising concerns about corruption in Ghana he suggested to the currrent Vice President to appoint a fearless and neutral person to head the Serious Fraud Office in Ghana from a neutral country who will not be seen as partisan. In addition he offered some suggestions as to how Ghana should deal with questionable oil deals in Ghana. These suggestions may or may not be appropriate but we have to look into it. Definitely Mr Murray has shown a passion for Ghana irrespective of what his motivation may be but it is obvious without question that he has genuine concerns for the ordinary Ghanaian. If Ghanaian politicians have half the concern that he has and not to only score cheap political points Ghana will be far better than it is now. From my observations so far most Ghanaian politicians take a stand based on whether they are in government or in opposition. What is wrong whilst in opposition suddenly becomes good when in govt. Thats the hypocrisy we as Ghanaians need to get rid of. Do not shoot the messenger but consider what the message is no matter how unpalatable it is. I will not say everything Mr Murray says is right or accurate but we still need to look into it. He has access to our politicians in Ghana and is privy to a lot of information that the average Ghanaian does not have.

  • Naya

    things that makes one livid!! the wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely it shall get to it destination. time will tell!!

  • Anonymous

    Yes,Ghanaians are not fools.They realized

    the stinking corruption in NPP and voted

    them out so NDC will come and prosecute

    and stop corruption.But what are we seeing ?NOTHING!!

    When the masses become disillusioned,they

    look elsewhere for a redeemer,and here is

    where support for any kind of takeover of

    government is applauded.

    The past government(NPP)and present government(NDC) seem to have forgotten so soon the causes that made the masses to support Rawlings when he staged his coups.

    What were some of the causes?POLITICIANS



  • Yaw Amoako Mensah

    Please is there anyway you can get this article to my President, Prof Evans John Attah Mills…… I would be so glad if he is able to read this…..

    I just visited one of the sites of Zakhem in Ghana near Kpone and just look at the cars (4 wheel pickups and toyota landcruisers plus Mitsubushi SUVs) and i wonder how much of the local farmer’s money and the icewater seller and that of the market woman have been stolen in other to acquire these cars.. Please help us if you can cos we are suffering

  • Yaw Amoako Mensah

    And again… I may not know why you speak so freely and truthly(hope you are) but just as some just said, when the masses are disillusioned, whatever will bring change is applauded…Maybe you see that such a disillusionment is around the corner so you are placing yourself in good position to benefit ( I hope you are not) Maybe you have gotten tired after seeing all there is and coming to the conclusion that the joy of life is not in the riches and the number of Zeros attached to your bank account, but the joy of life is seeing your neighbour happy as a result of something you did. I hope, Craig, this is what you have come to realise…. As for the critics, i would say that they say what they see from where they stand. And it comes as no surprise to me when people attack the messenger of the message of hope just because the bearer himself is not 100% ok.. Who is anyway… But there is one thing you all forgot in your assertions of the average Ghanaian, whose tax and wealth is making life “luxurious” for someone else…. They are genuinely happy people who enjoy the little they have… the farmer in the obscure plains near Wa in the Upper West region of Ghana will toil under the scorching sun but at the end, he would go home to his wife and sleep under the cool evening moon and still smile….

    What worries me now is that due to this trend, our young people know longer value hardwork and therefore go after cheap dollars and euros… what is the effect then…… heinuous crimes, that, 10 years ago, where unheard of in this beautiful coast of gold…. money corrupts so lets work at making the generation of today and tomorrow, value hard work…. I am just 25 years and this is what my little time in Ghana as a Ghanaian and still living in Ghana has taught me.

    Thanks Craig

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