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I’m vindicated – Ablakwa on court ruling of Norway embassy case

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a ranking member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has said the ruling by an Oslo District Court on the suit against the efforts by the government of Ghana to purchase acquire an Embassy in Norway is a vindication of his point.

Okudzeto Ablakwa, in 2018, blew an alert on an attempt by the government to buy a property in Norway at a cost of $12.1 million instead his estimation of $3.5million.

A legal action was instituted against the process and after three years, a District Court in Oslo has ruled in favour of the government.

In a Facebook post, Okudzeto Ablakwa said that his protest led to the government pulling out of the deal and buying a facility at a relatively cheaper rate.

He explained that it emerged during the court proceedings that a lawyer who represented Ghana indeed expressed interest in buying the said property.

“As the MP who first blew the lid off the Oslo Chancery scandal, I duly welcome the decision from the Oslo District Court in Norway.

“The judicial outcome is a clear and unambiguous vindication of the NDC Minority’s position which I championed at the time.

“It would be recalled that I led the charge in exposing how a property with address: Sigyns Gate 3 at Frogner in Oslo which had been sold to an unknown buyer in August 2017 for the equivalent of US$3.5million just before Ghana agreed to purchase it in 2018 for the inconceivable sum of NOK 105,180,000.00, equivalent at the time to US$12,218,487.13.

“Norwegian investigative journalists at the Finansavisen newspaper with whom I collaborated were convinced beyond any shred of doubt and in all their publications that the deal was inflated by over US$4million.

“Contrary to initial denials by Ghana’s Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian court has indeed confirmed that the sellers of the property, Messrs Jongsbru AS received an acceptance to their offer from Ghana’s lawyer Mikkel Vislie, from the Law Firm of Selmer. Lawyer Vislie produced emails showing that Ghana’s Charge d’Affaires, Regina Appiah-Sam, communicated Ghana’s interest to him,” parts of his post read.

Read his full post below:

MY FORMAL REACTION TO THE DECISION OF THE OSLO DISTRICT COURT IN THE OSLO CHANCERY SCANDAL
As the MP who first blew the lid off the Oslo Chancery scandal, I duly welcome the decision from the Oslo District Court in Norway.
The judicial outcome is a clear and unambiguous vindication of the NDC Minority’s position which I championed at the time.
It would be recalled that I led the charge in exposing how a property with address: Sigyns Gate 3 at Frogner in Oslo which had been sold to an unknown buyer in August 2017 for the equivalent of US$3.5million just before Ghana agreed to purchase it in 2018 for the inconceivable sum of NOK 105,180,000.00, equivalent at the time to US$12,218,487.13.
Norwegian investigative journalists at the Finansavisen newspaper with whom I collaborated were convinced beyond any shred of doubt and in all their publications that the deal was inflated by over US$4million.
Contrary to initial denials by Ghana’s Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian court has indeed confirmed that the sellers of the property, Messrs Jongsbru AS received an acceptance to their offer from Ghana’s lawyer Mikkel Vislie, from the Law Firm of Selmer. Lawyer Vislie produced emails showing that Ghana’s Charge d’Affaires, Regina Appiah-Sam communicated Ghana’s interest to him.
Ghana’s apparent saving grace is that the Oslo District Court held that acceptance of the offer did not directly emanate from Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway and that the emails show that it was Ghana’s Charge D’Affairs, Regina Appiah-Sam and Ghana’s lawyer, Mikkel Vislie who purported to have acted for and on behalf of Ghana to seal the controversial deal.
This is the reason though the court agreed with the seller that an agreement exists, it is Ghana’s lawyer, Mikkel Vislie and his insurance company, Tryg Forsikring who have been asked by the competent Oslo District Court to pay compensation to the sellers of the inflated property, Messrs Jongsbru AS.
The compensation is in the sum of thirty-seven million, seven hundred and twelve thousand, nine hundred and four Norwegian Kronner. This translates to some US$4,250,904.26.
It has been widely reported that Jongsbru AS convinced the court that the lawyer was fully responsible for the positive contractual interest, in accordance with the Contracts Act of Norway, and that the company did not understand and could not have reasonably understood that the lawyer did not have authorisation to act. The court, in its ruling, was of the view that there was a particular reason for trusting lawyers who acted on behalf of clients, thus the lawyer who acted on behalf of Ghana should be held liable for the litigation.
The compensation to the owners of the property is for market losses suffered, including the renovation of the property on the request of Ghana’s lawyer.
It is important to state that as at 9th November, 2021, the Ghanaian taxpayer has been billed €370,147.15 in legal fees to CMS Kluge between 2019 and 2021 when Ghana’s Foreign Ministry engaged the services of this new firm after disengaging with Mikkel Vislie of Selmer. It is imperative to point out that full cost of legal fees from 10th November, 2021 are yet to be presented to Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
We must therefore concede that the procedural costs in the sum of one million, seven hundred Norwegian Kronner in favour of Ghana to be paid by Jongsbru AS as awarded by the court works out to only €99,452.57. Clearly, the cost awarded in favour of Ghana does not even cover the initial amount spent on legal fees as at 9th November, 2021. An impressive deficit of €270,694.58 arises. At current exchange that works out to a whopping GHS1,894,221.46. It is important to note that legal charges from 10th November, 2021 are on its way coupled with other incidental costs of litigation including travel expenses to Norway by Ghanaian officials. A clear and veritable case of financial loss to the state from a messy transaction borne out of sleaze, impropriety and greed.
As we pointed out in 2018, this deal was accentuated by selfish gain and lack of transparency. If I had not raised alarm which compelled Government to pull out of this dubious transaction, nobody would at least have known today that other persons not authorized were purchasing properties in our name.
Needless to remind Ghanaians that the property in issue sold for NOK 70,000,000.00, equivalent to US$7,469,140.00 (not US12.2million) few weeks after Ghana pulled out. It is also interesting to observe that Ghana later purchased a similar building in Oslo for the Official Residency of our Ambassador at a much lower cost of US$6,952,714.19 also far lower than the scandalous transaction in issue.
We must all now be interested in the circumstances leading to the acceptance of the offer by Ghana’s original lawyer, Mikkel Vislie; what background checks went into engaging his law firm? Has he been used as scapegoat? Who authorized Ghana’s Charge d’Affaires, Regina Appiah-Sam to give Mr. Vislie the green light in her infamous emails? Could the transaction have come this far without the blessings of superior authority and special interests? What does this scandalous episode say about our Foreign Ministry’s transparency systems and its ability to carry out proper due diligence in transactions of this nature? What kind of scheme is being operated in the purchase of numerous diplomatic properties across the world?
When Parliament resumes, the NDC caucus shall be demanding answers to the legitimate questions above in our quest for sanctions to apply and genuine lessons to be learned as we ensure that this absolutely avoidable scandal which nearly strained diplomatic relations between Ghana and Norway never recurs.
It has been a rare and humbling privilege to be of service to Ghana and to see our vigilance in Parliament unearth what the Foreign Minister and her colleagues in the executive claim they couldn’t see and didn’t know. Our efforts have led to Ghana saving millions of dollars for more productive endeavours.
We shall continue to carry out our oversight with utmost diligence and patriotic dedication without fear or favour and without let or hindrance in the supreme national interest.
And it’s all for God and Ghana 🇬🇭

riddimsghana

CEO of Riddims Network | Web Designer | Blogger | YouTuber | Promoter | MD at RiddimsGhana.com

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