US$2.25 Bn Bond Scandal: Franklin Templeton to Pull Out and Demand Refund

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The tough negotiations over the controversial US$2.25 billion bond deal between the Government of Ghana and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), the intelligence financial regulatory body, have broken down, making it harder for the Finance Ministry and Franklin Templeton Investment to put the scandal behind them, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has sent several personalities, including high profile persons in the Republican Party of the United States of America to talk for the matter to be swept under the carpet, but the SEC has turned down all maneuvering pleas.

Uncontested information intercepted by The Republic investigation has revealed that, Mr. Trevor G. Trefgarne, Director of Franklin Templeton and Board Chairman of Enterprise Group, is ready to stand aside to allow investigation into the US$2.25 billion financial scandal, involving Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, in order to save the little integrity he has.

This therefore means Ghana’s Finance Minister and cousin to President Nana Akufo-Addo, will have no other option than to stand down as a minister and allow the concurrent investigation by SEC and Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to unearth the truth on the US$2.25 billion bond deal.

Additionally, sources familiar with the case said Trevor Trefgarne has also hinted at asking for a refund of the $2.25 billion bond to Franklin Templeton to reduce the shame and for the matter to die naturally.

This position of Trefgarne, according to sources within the corridors of government, is putting the Nana Addo’s led nepotistic government more vulnerable to the $2.25 billion bond scandal.

“The government is hot, there has been meeting upon meeting, the SEC is taking the matter seriously and Trevor Trefgarne of Franklin Templeton is in a tight corner. Apart from the $2.25 billion bond scandal in Ghana, Trefgarne is also facing similar investigations on a different issue,” our sources hinted.

Under the circumstance, should the Director of Franklin Templeton stand aside, Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori- Atta will have to resign along with the Director of Finance at the Ministry of Finance, as well as the head of Financial Policy at the Bank of Ghana (BoG).

The bond saga is also creating undue tension and  political upheaval at the Flagstaff House, as most of the government appointees have expressed their dissenting opinion on the bond.

The Council of State, The Republic gathered, had met on several occasions, all in an attempt to find a covert way of convincing the minority side in parliament to withdraw the petition at the US Securities Exchange Commission, so the smelly scandal could evaporate.

Some appointees are being viewed as moles in the Nana Addo government simply because they believed the bond will forever be the biggest scandal ever and has the tendency of making the New Patriotic Party unpopular in the eyes of well-meaning Ghanaians.

Ghana’s Minority Parliamentarians had filed before the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States, seeking among other things deep investigation into the controversial $2.25 billion domestic bond, which was issued in April, this year.

In the considered opinion of the Minority, the investigation will lead to the exposure of how the bond issuance, in which, Franklin Templeton purchased 95 percent of 15-year and 7-year bonds, was done within three hours, instead of week.

The Minority has already called for a full-scale probe into the bond issue, amidst concerns over secrecy and conflict of interest hanging on the neck of the finance minister.

Nonetheless, Ghana’s administrative justice body, CHRAJ, has also begun an investigation into the matter, following a petition it received from the Ashanti Regional Youth Organizer of the National Democratic Congress, Yaw Brogya Genfi.

As a result, CHRAJ wrote a letter asking the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta for certain information on the controversial $2.25 billion bond to aid its investigation.

But the Finance Minister requested extra 15 working days to respond to the queries from the Commission.

However, reacting to the Finance Minister’s request, Deputy Ranking Member of Finance Committee of Parliament and MP for Bolgatanga Central Constituency, Mr. Isaac Adongo, told The Republic that, the extra 15 working days requested by the Finance Minister is a ploy to conceal evidence.

According to the outspoken minority MP, Mr. Ofori-Atta’s attempt to “buy time” in responding to queries by CHRAJ shows that he  has something to hide and therefore needed such extra time to cover up “his shady deal.”

He contended that, if the Finance Minister has nothing to cover up, then why the need for him to ask for extra 15 working days to respond  when he used less than 24 hours to issue a $2.25 billion bond to a foreign company.

“Well, I think the Finance Minister has something to hide and that is why he is asking for more time. If he believed he did a transparent job with that $2.25 billion bond, then why the need for such 15 days, when you could easily respond with the information you use in issuing that bond?” Adongo asked.

“In addition to that, what stopped the Finance Minister from issuing the same information the Ministry providers in its press release when the minority raised the matter, or he is running from that press statement or is no longer valid? “ He asked.

He said, in the opinion of the minority, Ghana’s future is very important and that there is no way they will back down from the crusade to get value for money in exchange for Ghanaians under any shady deal.

The Bolgatanga MP asked Ghanaians to stand with them as investigation into the scandal has begun, stating that, no matter how the government wants to cover up the truth, the truth shall prevail as the issue thickens.

Mr. Adongo said, from the onset, the minority raised a number of issues of conflict of interest and the lack of transparency from the $2.25 billion bond issuance, which the government and Finance Ministry denied.

For instance, the bonds were not on the issuance calendar, the initial pricing guidelines of the bond were issued after working hours on March 30, 2017, while the public announcement of the transaction was sent by email at 9:09 am on March 31, 2017.

That meant that the transaction was opened before the announcement was made to the public.

Mr. Adongo further argued that the April 3, 2017 was the Settlement Date and not the Closing Date of the bond.

The SEC, he said, will primarily be investigating suspected conflict of interest and insider trading, which are violations of US law by Trevor G. Trefgarne, who is a director of Franklin Templeton and a Board Chairman of Enterprise Group – a company owned and founded by the Finance Minister of Ghana,  Ken Ofori-Atta.

Source: Felix Engsalige Nyaaba ||

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