The American development company, TJGEM, which is on the heels of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and its Chief Executive, Dr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, over the botched Accra sewer contract, appears to have gone for broke.
After accusing the Mayor of attempting to solicit bribe and kick-backs from them, TJGEM is again alleging that Dr. Vanderpuije is corrupt, and that he travelled to the US to do his private business, but asked the government to pay for the trip.
TJGEM, which has sued the Republic of Ghana, AMA, Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije, and Dr. Kwabena Duffour, former Finance Minister, claiming $511 million compensation in the District Court of Columbia in the United States, alleged in the writ filed at the court that immediately Dr. Vanderpuije was appointed Mayor of Accra, he corruptly submitted a requisition, voucher, invoice, bill or expense reimbursement request to the AMA or government of Ghana, for travel to the USA at government expense.
According to the writ, the Accra Mayor alleged that whilst in the US, he would be meeting with mayors of various US cities to officially discuss partnering with them for the benefit of Accra, but the plaintiff contends that the said representation was false and fraudulent, in that the trip was actually to attend the graduation of his daughter, and that the Mayor’s representation that he was traveling on government business to meet with US mayors was fraudulent, and made in order to fraudulently induce the government of Ghana or AMA to pay for the said travel at public expense.
Said the trip was not for public business, warranting public financing, but instead, was for personal business, and moreover, was not only taken without the permission of his sector Minister at a time, when he was scheduled to attend a mandatory orientation programme in Accra for district and municipal chief executives, but over the specific disapproval of the said sector Minister.
‘This pattern, thereafter, evolved into extortion and the solicitation of bribes and kickbacks from those members of the public who must petition him as Mayor to grant a service, permit, privilege or assistance from the city of Accra, as well as from the Republic of Ghana.
‘The Mayor, in pursuit of his racketeering and criminal enterprises of extorting and soliciting bribes and kickbacks from persons doing business with the city of Accra, did regularly schedule private meetings in the middle of a busy and noisy Kwame Circle, where his conversations could not be overheard nor recorded, with individuals having official business with the city of Accra, and over which he had authority and the power to grant or deny the said individuals petitions.
‘Said meetings were scheduled in Kwame Circle solely for the purpose of assuring that the Mayor could solicit bribes and kickbacks, and seek to extort monies from persons doing business with the city of Accra, without being overheard, recorded, discovered or exposed, or to assure that there would be no third party witnesses to his corrupt practices.
‘The Mayor, setting up a meeting with TJGEM’s representatives in Kwame Circle, and asserting to TJGEM’s representatives that bribes and kickbacks must be paid to public officials in Ghana to secure contracts, was done in furtherance of his criminal enterprise, racketeering and corrupt practices to solicit and extort bribes and kickbacks as a public official of Ghana in violation of the FCPA (US law),’ the plaintiff noted.
Still trying to justify their claim that the Mayor was corrupt, the plaintiffs quoted FRCP Rule 8 from the US statute, and argued that their complaint contained statements of predicate acts that are required under RICO and Hobbs, which are also American statutes
The plaintiffs allege that the “predicate acts”, under both RICO and Hobbs, do establish a pattern of racketeering and extortion by Defendant Vanderpuije in the course and scope of his duties as a public official of Ghana, under the tacit agreement of the defendants, which constitute a criminal enterprise.
According to the TJGEM, the Mayor of Accra, as a citizen of the USA, comes within the provisions of the FCPA, and is liable for soliciting bribes and kickbacks or placing, as a condition to TJGEM entering into the said sewer project, the payment of bribes and kickbacks to Ghanaian public officials.
To the plaintiffs, the Mayor of Accra had engaged in a pattern of racketeering and public corruption and criminal enterprise as a public official, both in the US and in Ghana. They defined ‘Pattern of Racketeering activity” as a pattern that has both continuity and relationship.
According to the plaintiffs, Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije’s act of corruption began in the USA, on or about July, 2000, through January 2005, with the Defendant Mayor’s multiple acts of misappropriation of public funds, or diversion of such funds to his own personal use while employed as the principal of a school in South Carolina.
They further argued that Vanderpuije had a record and public history of misuse of public funds in the US, in that, while a principal at the W.A. Perry Middle School, in Richland County, South Carolina, he was charged with misuse of $4,460.00 of school funds — a charge which resulted in his resignation from his employment, required him to pay restitution to the school district, caused the South Carolina Board of Education to suspend his license as an educator in the State of South Carolina, as well as resulting in his being prosecuted for a crime.
‘Moreover, Mayor Vanderpuije did not contest, neither the civil suspension of his license nor the criminal prosecution for misuse of public funds, with a plea of not guilty to the respective charges, but instead, he confessed to his misuse of public funds, which resulted in his license as an educator in South Carolina being temporarily suspended.
Furthermore, he both (a) escaped criminal conviction and (b) was enabled to have his educator’s license reinstated, only by completing the South Carolina Criminal Pretrial Intervention Program, by which a first time criminal offender, though guilty of a charge, can both avoid conviction of the crime and receive a complete expunging of the record of arrest and criminal prosecution, by successfully completing a pretrial probation program under the court’s supervision,’ the plaintiff stated in the writ.
Meanwhile, the following is the continuation of the full writ which we are serializsing. The last edition was published on Monday.
In October, 2011, Jonathan Adjetey, advised TJGEM members that there had been a major rainstorm in Ghana that had caused millions of dollars in property damages, and a heavy loss of lives, especially within the city of Accra.
He suggested that the Accra Sewer Project may now be of interest to the central government, in that the President of Ghana had announced the alleviation of flooding as a priority of his government. Jonathan suggested that the TJGEM’s proposal be presented to various ministers in the central government, including the Minister of Finance, as well as re-presented, once again, to the Mayor of Accra.
82. At about the same time, discussions about the flooding problem were had between the US Ambassador in Ghana and the Mayor of Accra, as well as other Ghanaian officials. During said discussions, the Mayor advised the U.S. Ambassador of TJGEM’s March, 2011 visit with him and his staff, and TJGEM’s proposal to reconstruct parts of the sewer system to alleviate the flooding in Accra.
83. After said discussions, a telephone call was had to Elbert Walton in the USA from the Mayor from Ghana, advising of the discussions with the US Ambassador and embassy personnel, and inviting TJGEM to return to Accra to explore, once again, the possibility of TJGEM reconstructing the sewer system in Accra to alleviate the flooding problem.
84. Based on the prior misrepresentations of Mayor Vanderpuije, as to his and the AMA’s authority and power to enter into contracts, and to fund same, and the statements made by the Mayor in the Kwame Circle about paying bribes to public officials in order to get them to support the project, Walton was skeptical about the project, and determined not to expend any additional funds and time on that project, as the Mayor and the AMA still did not have borrowing or contracting power under Ghana law, and the TJGEM team was not going to be party to any payoffs or corruption in the awarding of a contract.
85. Even so, Walton courteously advised the Mayor that he would discuss the matter with the principals of TJGEM.
86. Soon thereafter Walton’s conversation with the Mayor, Ms. Heather Byrnes, the Commercial Officer in the US Embassy called Walton and advised Walton that the Mayor had reported to the Ambassador and other Ghanaian officials during a meeting that TJGEM’s had previously submitted a proposal to the Mayor to reconstruct the sewer system to alleviate flooding within Accra.
87. Ms. Byrnes advised that the US Ambassador was interested in assisting Ghana with the Accra sewer reconstruction project, and was especially enthused that a US company might be employed by Ghana to complete the project, in that China had penetrated the Ghanaian market, and it was important, not only to the health, welfare and safety of the Ghanaian’s that the sewer project be completed, but it was beneficial to the US economy for a US business to be employed to complete the project.
88. Walton decided since the US Ambassador’s office was now involved in the project, as well as the Ghanaian central government, there was a strong probability that a contract would be signed between TJGEM and the Republic of Ghana to complete the sewer project, and thus, it was in TJGEM’s principals best interest to, once again, expend funds and time to return to Accra to discuss the project, and to present the proposal to the central government of Ghana.
89. Walton then advised the principals of TJGEM of these developments, and arranged to revisit Accra to meet with Ms. Byrnes, the Mayor, and any other public officials requisite to the project being adopted, and a contract entered into between the government of Ghana and TJGEM.
90. Walton then revised the work product for the sewer project as a contract between the Republic of Ghana and TJGEM.
91. In December, 2011, Walton, Gideon Adjetey, and Weaver, as representatives of TJGEM, flew to Accra, Ghana, at great expense in time and funds.
92. After arrival in Accra, Walton, Weaver and Gideon Adjetey were joined by Jonathan Adjetey, and met with Ms. Byrnes to be briefed on the Ambassador’s office’s position on the project, as well as to any position held by the Ghana government on the project, and to be advised as to what steps were needed to be taken to secure both a contract and funding for the sewer project.
93. Ms. Byrnes advised that the US Ambassador’s office was supportive of the project, as well as the Ghanaian government, and urged TJGEM to seek funding through the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) for the project.
94. The Ex-Im Bank provides both direct commercial loans and guaranteed commercial loans to facilitate US exports to foreign countries.
95. Said loans are provided directly to US businesses, as well as to customers of US businesses. 96. The purpose of said loans is to promote US exports of goods, services, and materials, and the employment of US personnel in the process.
97. All loans awarded by the Ex-Im Bank are contingent upon the borrower importing US goods and services.
98. The Ex-Im Bank issues Letters of Interest to US businesses, which indicate the Bank’s willingness to provide financing for a given export transaction.
99. Ms. Byrnes advised TJGEM that if the Ex-Im Bank would issue a Letter of Interest to TJGEM providing tentative financing for the sewer project, the central government of Ghana would adopt the project.
100. She advised that upon receipt of such a Letter of Interest, that TJGEM could meet with the Minister of Finance and other central government officials to finalize the contract on the project.