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Controversial Ghana Agyapa deal goes to regional ECOWAS court

Anti-corruption civil society is challenging the government’s controversial Gold Royalties Deal, currently on hold, in ECOWAS Court of Justice

Today the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice heard a case to determine whether the government of Ghana had violated the rights of its people by proposing to sell the country’s gold royalties in perpetuity in the Agyapa Royalties deal. On behalf of the people of Ghana, Transparency International, its national chapter Ghana Integrity Initiative and the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition brought the case to the court in light of numerous irregularities and corruption risks, and asked that the court restrain the Ghanaian government from going ahead with the deal.

In August 2020, the government of Ghana proposed to sell the majority of its future gold royalties from mining leases to an offshore company – Agyapa Royalties Ltd. – registered in the notoriously secretive British Crown Dependency of Jersey in the British Islands. Under the deal, the government would sell 49 percent of the shares of this company through public offering and keep 51 per cent stake. The government deemed this as an “innovative financing solution” to help ease the country’s debt crisis, but it valued the gold rights at far less than they could be worth.

The opposition party and civil society groups criticised the deal, and in November 2020 the special prosecutor released a report outlining suspected incidences of rigging and corruption, including opening doors for illicit financial flows and money laundering. Furthermore, millions of dollars were already paid out to companies without legally required approvals. The transaction advisor on the project Imara Corporate Finance is a South African company, and payments were made without the legally required parliamentary approval for transactions between the state and foreign entities. Databank Financial Services is a company founded by the finance minister of Ghana, and procurement laws were ignored in the selection process.

In response to the prosecutor's report, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo instructed authorities to review the transaction documents and return the proposal back to the parliament for approval. The Agyapa deal stalled as the public turned against the deal in the leadup to December 2020 general elections, and the incumbent government then lost their majority. But this was not the end: the current government alluded to a reconsideration of the Agyapa deal in its 2022 budget presentation to the parliament. Without any public consultation to date, it’s not clear if concerns will be addressed in this new iteration of the deal.

The Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and Transparency International brought this case before the ECOWAS Court of Justice to hold the government accountable and ensure that such risky deals that threaten the people’s rights are not approved. We argue that the deal is in violation of Article 21 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which states that all peoples are entitled to determine how their wealth and natural resources are disposed.

Transparency International and our partners also argue that the process disregarded the rights of the people of Ghana to consult and have their concerns addressed prior to execution. We ask that the court stop the government of Ghana from implementing the deal and order that any existing contracts are cancelled. Whatever the outcome of the court action, there is a clear need for a deeper investigation into possible corruption as laid out by the November 2020 special prosecutor’s report. Perpetrators must be brought to justice and held accountable for violations.

Ádám Földes, legal advisor at Transparency International, said:

“The African Charter is clear: Ghana’s gold belongs to its people. The ECOWAS Court of Justice has an invaluable opportunity to set a precedent under the African Charter by ruling that governments cannot sell off natural resources without a clear demonstration of the benefit to citizens – and allowing them to effectively participate as part of a transparent and open decision-making procedure. Presiding justices must see through this guise of an ‘innovative financing solution’ as a façade for potential embezzlement and a violation of Ghanaians’ rights.

“Transparency International – as an applicant in this case – will continue to support the fight of Ghanaian people and civil society groups in their quest for greater government accountability.”

After the hearings on 23 and 30 March, justices will now deliberate over the case – with an expected judgement by 13 July. Transparency International, Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and our civil society partners will continue to advocate on behalf of the Ghanaian people to ensure their rights are upheld.

Notes to editors

Read more about the proposed deal with Agyapa Royalties:

For any press enquiries, please contact

Ghana Integrity Initiative

+233 0302 760 884; +233 0501 695 949

info@tighana.org

Transparency International Secretariat

press@transparency.org