Ghana MTN-Areeba Turn Guns On Rawlings

Telecoms

MTN/Areeba have turned the guns on ex-President Jerry Rawlings in a surprise deposition submitted to an English law firm representing them in a legal action by two Ghanaian shareholders, who insist they have had their shares illegally and improperly taken from them.

In a formal request for arbitration filed with the London Court for International arbitration, via an English law firm, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene& MacRae, Investcom Consortium Holding SA, the parent company of Areeba, Ghana, labelled ex-President Jerry Rawlings as a 'notorious militant' who leaned on them to kick out Richmond Aggrey, who in their own written words they stated unequivocally 'became a shareholder of Scancom in 1996.'

Continuing, they wrote that 'Scancom had no choice but to make Aggrey a shareholder, because Scancom could not maintain licence to operate in Ghana without local representation'. They recalled that the then Minister of Communications (Hon. Edward Salia) recommended that Aggrey serve as Scancom's local representative on the board of directors. Investcom then confirmed that Aggrey became a 20 percent shareholder and was subsequently asked to contribute financially to cover the company's 'mounting debt'.

'However, by early 1997, Aggrey had fallen into disfavour with Rawlings. 'Although Scancom directors did not know the precise reason for Aggrey's dispute with President Rawlings, it was rumoured that Aggrey had funded a riot against Rawlings in Northern Ghana.' Lawyers representing Aggrey have bristled at this account and intimated to Chronicle that they might take this up as they consider it slanderous of their client since it is absolutely untrue.

'It was during this period in April 1997, that two of Scancom's directors - Jamal Ramadan and David Hesse - met with the Ghana Minister of Communications. Ramadan came away from that meeting understanding that unless Aggrey stepped down and divested his shares in Scancom, the company's business would continue to suffer. Investcom continued to make the startling revelation in the face of persistent denial of Nana

Aggrey's claims as a shareholder that 'Despite this understanding, Scancom- a company that was still struggling to find its feet in Ghana - was reluctant to forcibly remove a shareholder. As it turns out, such removal was unnecessary. Aggrey, who was familiar with the political will of a regime like Rawlings, volunteered to divest his interest in Scancom and to disassociate himself from the company. However, while he and Scancom were discussing the best way to divest his shares, Aggrey himself began suffering financial difficulties. As a result, in September 1997, Scancom's major shareholder, Investcom, agreed to extend Aggrey a loan. The board approved the loan and a formal loan agreement was executed'. The loan amount was $14,500.00.

Investcom went on to tell of how Aggrey 'employed a variety of stall tactics to maintain his interest in the company despite the pressure from Rawlings, while at the same time indicating to them that he would leave. In 1999, the situation between Rawlings and Aggrey came to a head, as by their own account, the level of hatred or disfavour was now 'extreme'!

'In the meantime, the Rawlings' regime continued to voice its extreme displeasure with Richmond Aggrey's continued shareholding in Scancom.

Most notably, in a 1998 Emancipation address, President Rawlings criticised Aggrey in front of visiting American and Caribbean diplomats, businessmen, and tourists at the Accra International Conference Centre. A tape recording of Rawlings' very public attack on Aggrey before the international audience is one of the arsenal of exhibits that lawyers of Aggrey have in their possession and intend to show before the court. Investcom and Scancom also requested the tribunal to arbitrate on the matter and offer appropriate reliefs to both parties on the merits of the case.

It was this course of action that was challenged first by David Hesse, the company director and the alleged six percent shareholder and subsequently by Nana Aggrey, asserting before the court that the route embarked upon by Investcom and their directors usurped the duties of the Ghana court, which is already hearing the case and therefore in contempt of court.

David Hesse last week asked the court to commit all the directors to prison emphasising that they had fallen foul of the law on contempt, while Aggrey, who has always insisted that he and the Mikatis are brothers merely asked for the court to adjudicate on the matter because he also believed that they were in contempt.

This morning an Accra commercial court will hear an application from lawyers representing Nana Aggrey who is a chief of Benso, a village next to Agona Swedru to decide whether those efforts by Azmi Mikati, Subhi Accad, and all the directors, undermine the administration of justice - contempt of court, a quasi criminal act.

The application, which was filed on notice has been challenged by lawyers for the defendants, namely Messrs. Larry Otoo, senior partner of the law firm Fugar& Co. They prayed that should the court determine that they are indeed in contempt, they were prepared to apologise.

Nearly nine months after Messrs Kulendi and Hesse made their legal challenge and filed documentary records supporting their claims to stake of 20 and six percent respectively in the company, the lawyers for Areeba have not filed defence, and have challenged only the legal processes, and sought adjournments after adjournments.