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Akufo-Addo, Ken Ofori-Atta under US Justice Dept investigation over illegal payments

An international organization, called “Open Source Investigators” (OSI) comprising of investigative journalists, researchers, fact-checkers, activists and data experts who have teamed up to provide in-depth research behind political stories has sunk its teeth into the flesh of the Akufo-Addo government.

They revealed alleged use of public funds by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and his cousin Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta to illegally to pay their foreign election consultants, KRL International, who have been cited for engaging in dirty lobbying on behalf of even dictators and warlords.

The agreement which had required the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance to pay the American consultants, US$25,000 every month from June 30th, 2017 to June 30th, 2018, has become a subject for discussion at the US Department of Justice.

OSI, provided several documents filed by KRL International to Justice Department bearing the signatures of Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta and Chris Beaty who was identified as Managing Director of KRL International.

One Riva Levinson, a long-time associate of Chris Beatty was mentioned and said to have been involved in the Kosmos Energy-sponsored smear campaign against Ghana in 2009-2010 during the Atta-Mills administration.

It is unclear with their work led to the sensational banning of then Chairman of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Ato Ahwoi and others from entering the US.

But parts of the OSI investigative piece published on their website www.opensourceinvestigations.com/ghana/ghanas-president-illegally-used-public-funds-to-pay-his-foreign-election-consultants/ disclosed that on June 1st 2016, the American lobbyists had been engaged through an agreement signed with I Am For Nana Foundation, an organization created by Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) to fund the presidential campaign of Nana Akufo-Addo.

That June 1st 2016 was said to have fetched the US company whopping US$100,000. But upon winning the 2016 Presidential election, the Akufo-Addo government regularized its arrangement with KRL International to do lobbying on its behalf in the US at the cost of US$300,000 a year, subject to renewal.

The US$300,000 a year contract excludes, other payments including sponsored trips in the US and trips to Ghana to meet with Akufo-Addo officials.

Below is the story, The Herald is meanwhile studying some of the documents and will bring other details in due course.

The KRL-NPP contract

On June the 1st 2016, American PR firm KRL International entered into an agreement with I Am For Nana Foundation, an organization created by Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) to fund the presidential campaign of Nana Akufo-Addo. According to the registration form filed with the U.S. Department of Justice (which monitor foreign lobbying), the beneficiary of the services provided by KRL was a “foreign political party”, New Patriotic Party.

The declared aim of the agreement was to “support free and fair elections in Ghana in support of Nana Akufo-Addo Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party”. KRL was employed to provide lobbying services (with the US Government, the donor community and media institutions), advise Nana Addo on the communications strategy, and “provide in-country support as required and appropriate throughout the electoral process”.

In fact, according to KRL’s website, the PR firm founded and led by Riva Levinson, a specialist in dirty lobbying and influence operations (Riva Levinson’s dirty lobbying and influence operations), ran the entire presidential campaign of Nana Akufo-Addo (www.krlinternational.com/case-study-ghana-election).

Signatories and fees

The agreement was signed by Chris Beatty, managing director of KRL, and Ken Ofori Atta, director of I Am For Nana Foundation.

A long-time associate of Riva Levinson, Chris Beatty had also been involved in the Kosmos Energy-sponsored smear campaign against Ghana in 2009-2010 (www.opensourceinvestigations.com/). NPP’s main financier Ken Ofori Atta is Nana Akufo Addo’s cousin and campaign finance manager. Appointed Finance Minister in January 2017, Ofori Atta has recently partnered with ExxonMobil in the Deepwater Cape Three Points oil block (www.opensourceinvestigations.com/).

The fee specified in the contract was 7,500 USD per month without expenses, but the payments were much higher. By January 31, 2017, I Am For Nana Foundation had already paid KRL more than 100,000 USD for “consulting services and travel-related expenses”.

Nana Akufo-Addo won the December 2016 presidential elections and assumed office on January 27, 2017. KRL continued to campaign on Nana Addo’s and NPP’s behalf.

A contract extension was signed on February 27, 2017. The beneficiary (NPP) and purpose (supporting Nana Addo) remained the same. But the payments were no longer made by a private entity, I Am For Nana Foundation; they were now made by the Office of the President-elect for Ghana, using public funds.

According to the Amendment filed by KRL with the US regulators, “original contract was with the election campaign foundation for Nana Akufo-Addo. He became the President-elect and is now the President of Ghana. This contract extension for this reporting period is between KRL International LLC and the Office of the President elect for Ghana”.

Despite both Ghanaian and US laws, KRL International was providing services for a Ghanaian political party (New Patriotic Party), while being paid by Ghana’s Government.

Cover-ups and false statements

On June 28, 2017, KRL International and the Government of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Finance, entered into a new and different consultancy service contract.

On August 30, 2017, KRL filed an Amendment “to clarify change in name of a KRL International LLC client”, suggesting that the replacement of I Am For Nana Foundation with the Office of the President-elect of Ghana had never happened.

Without mentioning the February 27, 2017 contract extension, KRL claimed that “once President Akufo-Addo took Office a new agreement was consumated between KRL International LLC and the Government of Ghana, Ministry of Finance on June 28, 2017. At that point in time – KRL said – the agreement between KRL International LLC and I Am For Nana Foundation was terminated, because the campaign effort no longer existed.”

It was a desperate attempt to cover-up the fact that for four months (from February 27 to June 28, 2017), Ghana’s Government paid KRL for services provided on behalf of the New Patriotic Party. By June 28, 2017, KRL had referred to the Office of the President-elect for Ghana as a client in three forms filed with the US Department of Justice.

The cover-up went even further. In a statement filed with the US Department of Justice in August 2017, KRL International claimed that lobbying services provided by KRL in April 2017 were made on behalf of “the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Ghana”.

This was an obvious false statement. The only contract in force in April 2017 was between KRL and the Office President-elect for Ghana. The agreement between KRL International and Ghana’s Ministry of Finance would not be signed until two months later, on June 28, 2017.

Riva Levinson, the consultant who led Nana Akufo-Addo’s 2016 presidential campaign, is frequently hired by dictators, autocrats, guerrilla leaders and corrupt politicians to whitewash their crimes.

Levinson did PR for Somali dictator Siad Barre even as he was massacring civilians. She was hired by Jonas Savimbi, leader of Unita, an Angolan separatist group funded by apartheid government of South Africa. Levinson lobbied for the US government to re-instate diplomatic ties with the brutal and corrupt regime of Equatorial Guinea’s President Mbasogo. KRL International, the PR firm founded by Levinson, was hired by the Government of South Sudan at the height of the civil war. KRL supported DRC President Joseph Kabila’s bid to cling to power.

Giving Somali dictator a friendly face

One of the bloodiest African dictators, Somalia’s former President General Siad Barre, hired lobbying company Black, Manafort and Stone in 1989. The firm was founded by Paul Manafort (the American lobbyist imprisoned for multiple crimes in 2019). Riva Levinson was the lobbying firm operative who worked on Somalia. Manafort sent her to have Barre sign a million-dollar public relations contract.

Riva Levinson did PR for Somali dictator Siad Barre even as he was massacring civilians. According to the Africa Watch Committee, “both the urban population and nomads living in the countryside were subjected to summary killings, arbitrary arrest, detention in squalid conditions, torture, intimidation, and terror”.

—The Herald

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