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CAA: Airport News, "Kofi Annan's Son Linked to 75m Harare Airport Deal"


 
Monday, May 8, 2000

Kofi Annan's Son Linked to 75m Harare Airport Deal
Africa News Service


Lagos (This Day, May 8, 2000) - Kojo Annan sounded tetchy. "I want to make
it very clear, to avoid speculation about my father," he said. "When Air
Harbour was awarded airport contract I was not on its board of directors."

The defensiveness of the son of United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan
was understandable. Sunday Business has learnt he is a director of the
offshore company that benefited from what Zimbabwe's opposition alleges is
the country's most notorious act of cronyism.

It is a bizarre tale involving a wayward nephew of president Robert Mugabe,
the son of a former Saudi oil minister, as well as the son of the UN chief.
It is set against the backdrop of a Pounds75 million contract to redevelop
Harare International Airport, the little-known Isle of Man-registered
company that won it, and Mugabe's new mansion.

And it is a story that may yet present the UN secretary-general with
difficulties in dealing with Mugabe as a rising tide of violence sweeps
Zimbabwe.

Last Sunday, Annan's son was keen to emphasis that he did not become a
director of Air Harbour Technologies until ate last year - four years after
its victory in the Harare airport tender caused an outcry in Zimbabwe. But
he was less keen to elaborate on the nature of his involvement with the
company.

Speaking on a mobile phone in his native Ghana, Kojo Annan denied having a
shareholding in Air Harbour, or drawing a salary. He added: "I have
director's fees. I mean, any director of any company gets fees."

But when asked how much he is paid, he said: "Do you really think I'm going
to answer that? I told you I have no further comment. I'm not going to
answer that."

The youngest of Kofi Annan's three children and the son from his first
marriage, Kojo is based in Accra, Ghana, and in Lagos, Nigeria, his mother's
home country. He is a partner in a Lagos firm of consultants called Sutton
Investments, which is involved in development projects. The 26-year-old's
business activities raised eyebrows last year when it emerged that a client
had won the Pounds6 million contract to monitor the UN's "oil-for-food"
programme in Iraq.

Geoffrey Lipman, Air Harbour's chief executive, said: "As a board member,
Kojo passes comment on all of our activities." He stressed that the company
had no relationship with Kofi Annan or the UN.

Lipman refused to name any specific projects Kojo was engaged in on behalf
of Air Harbour. But he described Kojo as "a businessman who is active in
business development predominantly in West Africa, where we do business and
want to do business. He knows the local situation."

Sdpecialising in high quality tourist developments, Air Harbour has big
plans for expansion. Led by chairman and principal shareholder Hani Yamani,
Saudi oil minister in the 1970s - the board comprises people of many
nationalities.

The firm's international ambitions are also reflected in its corporate
structure. It is registered in the isle of Man, has an operating centre in
Cyprus, recently opened a subsidiary in the UK but does its business in
Africa and the Middle East.

However, it is best known in Africa as the company that designed and built
Harare International Airport, which is scheduled for completion in July.

Through Hazy Investments, its Zimbabwean arm, Air Harbour led the consortium
which won the Z$1.2bn (Pounds75 million) deal in 1995. Its consortium
partners were German contractors ABB, Britain's Edmund Nuttal and Interbeton
of Holland. Ever since, Air Harbour has been under scrutiny by Zimbabwe's
press and political opposition.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main political adversary of
the ruling Zanu-PF party, has promised to investigate the airport contract
if it comes to power, as part of a wider probe into alleged corruption in
the Mugabe era.

David Coltrat, MDC legal affairs secretary said,: "When the tender was
decided upon, the cabinet went against the recommendation of the official
tender board, which had rated the Air Harbour bid only fourth."

Coltart suggests that Air Harbour's consortium owned its success to lobbying
by the president's nephew, Leo Mugabe. A firm in which he was a shareholder
recently beat better-known competitors to win one of Zimbabwe's much-prized
mobile phone licences.

"The airport tender was given to the company sponsored by Leo Mugabe," said
Coltart.

"Even if that had been the best tender, for the sake of openness and
transparency, the government, as a matter of policy shouldn't have given it
to that company."

He added that construction costs at the airport were too high. "When you
don't write the tender in the right way, almost inevitably there are adverse
consequences for the nation."

Zimbabwe's official land corruption watchdog is said to have launched an
investigation into the way the contract was awarded. But this was reportedly
brought to an abrupt halt by the government earlier this year. The
government denies there was ever such a probe.

Hani Yamani, Air Harbour's chairman, defends his consortium's airport bid,
saying the cabinet had approved it for three reasons: "One, our design was
better. Two, we had a completion time of 27 months. And the third reason is
that we had a lower budget."

Yamani - whose father became world-famous during the oil crisis of the
1970s- accepted his consortium's bid had not won out in the tender board
assessment, but said: "I don't believe that you can technically question our
consortium partners." He added that the airport would be finished two weeks
ahead of schedule without going over-budget.

Yamani denied that Leo Mugabe had been paid for his support, or that he was
retained as a lobbyist or given any commission by his firm in connection
with the airport tender. he said their relationship dated back to his former
sponsorship of Zimbabwe's football team, of which Leo was president.

"This was before the airport contract was even put to tender," he said. "For
two years I donated, in the name of my company, $100,000 a year to the
national football association of Zimbabwe. I was paying for their German
coach.

"Once it went to tender, I stopped giving the football association any
money."

Asked why Leo Mugabe had supported his airport bid so enthusiastically,
Yamani said: "I think Leo was very happy with what we were doing. Zimbabwe,
in the years we paid for the coach, was doing much much better. And of
course I think he wins kudos on that."

But Yamani said he had not met Leo Mugabe for five years, and added: "There
has been absolutely no payment made by Air Harbour Technologies to any
member of the Mugabe family."

His company has also had a role in the building of a new mansion for
President Mugabe. A Harare estate agent, Nigel Gabriel, said he was paid to
conduct a land survey on the proposed land by Air Harbour's Zimbabwean arm.
Yamani said: "We bid for the design of the mansion. I think we spent
somewhere between Pounds3,000 and Pounds4,000. And our bid lost."

President Mugabe is known to be a man of expensive personal tastes, which
are scarcely matched by his official salary of about Pounds28,000 a year. He
is thought to have at least three properties in Zimbabwe's deeds office.

His wife Grace, who married Mugabe in a Pounds2 million ceremony in 1996,
was implicated in Zimbabwe's "VIP housing" scandal after being awarded a
Pounds250,000 house out of a fund intended to help civil servants buy their
homes.

Yamani blames an aggrieved commercial rival for spreading hostile rumours
about Air Harbour. "It was a foreign company backed by its government. And
they really stirred things up."

Yamani said he prefers to dwell on his company's bright future. He declined
to say how much Kojo Annan or the other directors were paid. He said they
did not hold stakes in the company, but added that Air Harbour was planning
to offer shares to its directors soon. He said that the company was planing
a flotation in the next four years.

Quite what role Kojo Annan is intended to play in this future is unclear,
since nobody at the company was willing to elaborate on his function. Kojo
himself refused to be drawn, simply describing himself as a specialist in
"infrastructure projects and development in the West African region."

Sunday Business has established that one aspect of Kojo's role is to serve
on the management board of the company's subsidiary in Ghana. In a joint
venture with the Ghanaian government agreed last year, it is about to build
a Pounds130 million five star hotel, residential and office complex in
Accra.

   Post your opinion on this story in the CAA Discussion Forum
http://www.californiaaviation.org/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?conf=DCConfID8

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