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SFO Probes Vodafone


David Venn

David Venn

Having brought the damning dealings of Mabey & Johnson in Ghana on the spotlight, resulting in the subsequent exiting of two ministers from government, the United Kingdom (UK) Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has turned its lenses on the purchase of Ghana Telecom by Vodafone, the British Telecom giant.

A British newspaper, Daily Mail, reported yesterday that the head of the SFO, Richard Alderman, has directed a team of investigators to wade into the fray with a view to establishing whether there were acts of impropriety as being peddled.

Of particular interest to the team would be whether there were grey areas in the majority stake purchased by Vodafone. The team has been tasked with gathering all pieces of intelligence information with a view to supporting the UK SFO make valid deduction as regards impropriety or otherwise on the part of the two parties in the transaction.

This does not suggest though that an official enquiry into the deal has commenced, as such an enquiry would depend upon the outcome of the intelligence so gathered. What is going to be undertaken at this stage is the gathering of relevant intelligence which would inform the next line of action, a source quoting the British newspaper has disclosed.

The transaction, which, during the erstwhile Kufuor regime saw government cede its majority stake in Ghana Telecom to UK Vodafone, has come under the flak of the Mills Administration on a number of occasions.

While New Patriotic Party (NPP) political players consider the transaction as bereft of financial sleaze, their successors think there was something untoward in the manner in which the deal was consummated.

An enquiry ordered by the incumbent Mills-led administration has received supportive cooperation from management of Vodafone who have served notice of their readiness to ensure all crooked paths are straightened out.

The SFO Chief Alderman has developed a passionate interest in the subject and may contact Vodafone’s principal attorney in the case. Earlier, the waters were muddied when a report on the acquisition made the rounds in town and which rumours say were put out by Communications Minister Haruna Iddrisu even before the President had laid hands on it.

The media, having received copies of the extracts, reported that Vodafone underpaid for the stake, adding that the transaction smacks of unconstitutionality. Some antagonists of the transaction posited that there were executive interferences by former President Kufuor.

NPP on the other hand expressed surprise that an Executive President’s interest in a transaction of this magnitude would be considered interference. The review of the transaction by President Mills on assumption of office was a fulfillment of a pledge to take another look at the arrangement with a view to isolating impropriety.

Vodafone which has been under a stress of a sort since the subject became a household one in the country, has expressed delight at the prospects of a possible Ghanaian SFO probe into the transaction.

Such a probe, the company thinks, would allow for exploration of all grey areas in the transaction and give them a needed break from the hullabaloo especially since the company has maintained that there was nothing unseemly in the deal.

Vodafone, DAILY GUIDE has learnt, is eagerly awaiting a government statement which could explain points in the transaction about which it (government) is uncomfortable. Vodafone bought its stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million and quickly went into overdrive to re-brand the company.

Vodafone’s closest rival in the bid to buy the majority stake in the Ghanaian telecom company was French Telecom. Vodafone’s interest in the Ghanaian business turf is part of a wider expansion programme being embarked upon by the conglomerate which has already established a foothold in other African countries.

Vodafone has pledged to fight any allegations of irregularities surrounding its £450m purchase of a majority stake in Ghana Telecom, when a report into the deal is published this week.

Source: dailyguideghana

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