Allegd $80 million Gold Deal: Geological Survey Department Shifts Blame

The Geological Survey Department (GSD) has absolved itself from blame in the on-ongoing investigations into the seizure of an aircraft in Istanbul, Turkey, allegedly carrying 1.5 tonnes of gold originating from Ghana and destined for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The GSD Director, John Agyei Duodu insists his outfit only carried out laboratory analysis on mineral samples and not on gold bars.

He was speaking to in an interview.

The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) is still investigating how a shipment described as mineral samples could turn to gold bullion.

It will be recalled that sections of the media reported on the supposed gold bars recently seized at Istanbul-Turkey due to lack of documents. It was widely conjectured that the said shipment was payment by Ghana in respect of some financial transaction with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Government, in two separate responses, denied any involvement in the use of gold to settle any transaction with the Government of Iran. Following that denial, President John Dramani Mahama directed that the matter be investigated by the security agencies.

Even before the BNI could come out with its initial findings, sections of the media published that the US$80 million supposed gold bars, have mysteriously changed into “thirty (30) boxes of mineral samples weighing 1,500kgs”.

The publication further accused “state officials at the GSD and Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority of collusion, hence Turkish detention of the mineral”.

The publications also questioned why and how “state officials at the GSD, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and SG-SSB Bank Limited, with the speed of light, hurriedly prepared and signed for Omanye Gold Mining Limited (the company at the center of the brouhaha) on December 31, 2012, to enable them haul the 30 boxes of so-called mineral samples to Dubai”.

The publications further sought to malign the integrity of the GSD saying the claim on the certificate that the 30 boxes “of minerals for laboratory analysis only and are of no commercial value” could be a clever means by the Geological Survey Department to outwit tax officials because the regulations mandates Bank of Ghana to collect tax from both the buyers and the sellers.

The absence of proper documentation on the said gold, according to the publication citing experts’ opinion, is said to have accounted for the lie that the gold was on its way to Iran to settle Ghana’s bilateral transactions, leading to the Turkish officials seizing the consignment onboard the cargo aircraft chartered from Tripoli-Libya.

BNI Initial Findings
A ULS cargo aircraft (Airbus 300-B4) arrived at the Kotoka International Airport from Tripoli, Libya and filed a Landing Clearance Request form in which they indicated that they were to lift gold bars as their cargo.

The consignment arrived at the KIA for pre-export formalities under two certificates for “mineral samples” for “laboratory analysis only and of no commercial value” both signed for the Director of Geological Survey by one Dr Thomas Adu but with one dated 31st December 2012 and the second dated 7th January 2013. The said “mineral samples” were consigned to an address in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to the BNI, at the airport, one Isaac Anakwa Asante, Head of Operations of Menzies Airline Handling Services which handled the aircraft from touchdown to departure and who inspected the cargo before scanning by Nick TC-Scan reported sighting gold bars. The exporter, Kofi Bedzrah of Omanye Gold Mining Ltd also insists his company exported gold bars of 1.5 tonnes. He claims it is worth $62,000,000.

The BNI’s preliminary report of investigations which was made known to the public by the Information Minister, Mahama Ayariga, however, added that the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (CD/GRA) Instructions for the Dispatch of Goods (IDG) form entered the goods as “mineral samples”. The pre-departure formalities were endorsed by Kwesi Avemee, a collector of CD/GRA and Albert Kan Dapaah, a Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) official. While mineral samples do not attract tax liability, it was found unusual to have mineral samples shipped in such tonnage.

GSD Explanation
But the GSD Director, John Agyei Duodu, brandished documents to support the claim that his outfit only received a “request for approval” from Omanye Gold Mining Ltd “to export mineral samples to Mr Vahid Moradi Moghddam to Swift Investment and Development Co. Ltd DMCC Branch, Transguard Code DSS 898 Suite 910 BUSINESS AVE BLD, (ETIHAD) ROAD, DEIRA-DUBAI-UAE”. He added that the “Application for Export Permit” of the 15 boxes of Mineral Samples was dated 7th January, 2013.

The GSD, on that same day, issued a “Certificate of Mineral Samples ” which was signed by Dr T.K Adu for the Director of the GSD to the Gold Mining Company, which states inter alia; “I Certify that Omanye Gold Mining Limited, P.O.Box MS 292, Mile 7, Achimota-Accra, is sending 15 boxes of mineral samples weighing 1500kgs to Mr Vahid Moradi Moghddam, Swift Investment and Development Co. Ltd DMCC Branch, Transguard Code DSS 898 Suite 910 BUSINESS AVE BLD, (ETIHAD) ROAD, DEIRA-DUBAI-UAE. These samples are for laboratory analysis only and are of no commercial value. These samples, which were inspected in the presence of Mr Peter Bedrah (CEO), were not under seal.”

The certificate was copied to the Assistant Commissioner of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, the Chief Executive of Mineral Commission, the Deputy Director of Foreign Banking Officer (Receipt) and the CEO of the Omanye Mining Limited.

Thus to Mr Agyei Duodu, there was no way the mineral samples that underwent laboratory analysis could turn into gold bars, stressing that the GSD never conducted any analysis on gold materials.

Meanwhile, the BNI is still carrying out investigations into the discrepancy in description of the shipment at various times as mineral samples and gold bullion during the export process.

Two Ghanaian nationals, according to officialdom, have been cited in the controversial gold transaction initially said to have been between the Government of Ghana and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The two are Peter Bedzrah the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Omanye Gold Mining Limited and Fredrick Kojo Essumang.