Politics

Government under pressure to cough up a $140 million judgement debt as nation’s assets in the UK are targeted

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The government is under intense pressure to cough up a $140 million arbitral award as Ghana’s assets in the UK are targeted to defray a judgement debt.

The Ministry of Finance is reported to have reneged on its role to pay the award, a development that has culminated in the judgment creditor attaching the government’s assets in the UK.

Oil Trader, Trafigura, won a $140 million arbitral award against Ghana for the termination of a power deal by the state in 2021.

On January 26, 2021, GPGC (a majority-owned Trafigura entity) obtained a final award in its favour against the Government of Ghana in arbitral proceedings in England. The award arose out of a written agreement for the installation and operation of two power plants, which Ghana (as the tribunal found) had unlawfully terminated prior to the expiry of the contractual term.

On November 4, 2021, the court granted GPGC leave, pursuant to section 66(1) of the Arbitration Act 1996, to enforce the award.

Service was effected on May 10, 2022. The deadline for challenging the Cockerill order was two months and 22 days after service – the two months having been added to the normal deadline. The deadline date was 1st August 2022. No challenge was made however.

On 17th March, 2022, GPGC issued applications for charging orders in relation to five London properties in which Ghana has a freehold or leasehold interest. On the same day, GPGC also issued an application for alternative service.

On April 28, 2023, an order was made permitting alternative service upon Ghana by (i) posting to its London High Commission addresses; and (ii) emailing to a series of addresses listed in the order and its appendix.

GPGC served the ICOs, the order, and other related documents on May 5, 2023 by post and by email. In response to one of those emails, Stephenson Harwood (GPGC’s solicitors) received responses from Grace Mbrokoh-Ewoal, a legal counsel in the Ministry of Finance (whose email address was one of those listed in the appendix to the order).

In particular, Ms Mbrokoh-Ewoal sent an email on May 5, 2023 specifically acknowledging receipt of the documents.

On 24th May, 2023, Stephenson Harwood received an email from White & Case stating that it expected to receive instructions to act for Ghana and seeking to agree on a revised timetable in relation to GPGC’s applications.

A 30th May, 2023 hearing was subsequently vacated by consent. On 23rd June, 2023, Ghana issued an application to set aside the Knowles order.

The substantial basis for the application was that GPGC had been obliged to serve not only the Cockerill order but also the applications for the charging orders and the ICOs themselves by the diplomatic procedure.

On 21st July, 2023, Ghana filed the objections it wished to raise in relation to making the ICOs final, and on 2nd August 2023, GPGC made an application for a receivership order in relation to Ghana’s leasehold interest in one of the London properties, Regina House.

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