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General News of Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Source: ghanaweb.com

Nigerian oil and gas mogul, Benedict Peters alleged to be in hot water in Ghana

Benedict Peters, the suspected owner of Frontier Healthcare Services Limited in Ghana and the owner of Aiteo Group of Companies in Nigeria, is under fire after a civil society group drags Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to court seeking his arrest and prosecution over corruption allegations.

The lack of transparency about the controversial USD 150 COVID-19 test at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra has left many would-be ministers of Akufo-Addo’s second term in limbo, with five of his nominees so far having been deferred by the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

The Minority in Parliament continues to ask questions about who approved the contract for the test, with many travellers complaining that it is too expensive.

However, officials of the Akufo-Addo administration would not offer any information about the Frontier contract.

Frontier Healthcare Services Limited (FHSL) is embroiled in an ownership suspicion as it's linked to a company incorporated in the notorious offshore tax haven of Dominica, an island country of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea.

Per Registar-General's documents, Frontier Healthcare Services Limited is owned by another Ghanaian company called Healthcare Solution Services Limited (HSSL) which was also incorporated on June 3, 2020. HSSL is also wholly owned by another company called The Peters Family Company Ltd incorporated in Dominica.

The Peters Family Company Ltd seems to be the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of HSSL and FHSL in Ghana which were registered barely one month apart and the latter awarded the COVID-19 testing contract at the KIA despite being incorporated only 40 days before the air borders were opened.

The Registrar General's Department has no records of the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of the string of companies except a string of foreign and local directors who are fronting for the actual owners.

However, most of the work of FHSL at KIA was being done by scientists from Noguchi and nurses from the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge) with “Nigerian supervisors,” GhanaWeb found out in September 2020. A senior airport official who spoke to GhanaWeb at the time on condition of anonymity said: “I don’t know why we gave this contract to a foreign company. As you can see, Noguchi is doing everything and look at these Nigerians standing there like slave masters. My brother, where is the can-do spirit that our president always talks about.”

The directors of FHSL are: Jean-Laurent Louis (TIN=P0009487379); Samuel Bansah (TIN P0001525662). Bansah is also the company’s secretary. Meanwhile, the directors of HSSL are Samuel Bansah (TIN P0001525662), Jean-Laurent Louis (TIN=P0009487379) and RATKO KNEZVIC (TIN=P0009329250). The secretary of HSSL is one Chuks Chukwunwike (TIN=P0009329188).

The FHSL website where travelers to Ghana were directed to pay the exorbitant $150 for the COVID-19 test using a credit or debit card has copyright violations and is managed by Nigerian-owned First Atlantic Bank, GhanaWeb investigations revealed. The domain name was purchased on August 27, 2020, for a year by an offshore company based in Panama. It expires on August 27, 2021.

The mysterious Peters Family Company Ltd., GhanaWeb investigators were confident, belongs to Nigerian billionaire businessman Benedict Peters; and the company is located on Hanover Street, Hodge’s Lane in Dominica’s capital city, Roseau.

A popular Nigerian online news portal, sunnewsonline has reported that Peters has been accused of some inappropriate conduct between 2014 and now; which ranges from “conspiracy to fraud, tax evasion, corruption, and money laundering using his Aiteo Group of Companies comprising Aiteo Eastern E & P Company Ltd, Aiteo Energy Limited and Aiteo Energy Resources Ltd.”.

The website reported on February 28, 2021, that Nigeria's Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) had petitioned the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately arrest and prosecute the Nigerian oil and gas mogul, Benedict Peters, who is the present Chairman of Aiteo Group of Companies.

“In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/239/2021 and filed at the Federal High Court on Friday, the plaintiff, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET), stated that it had on 15th February 2021 written a petition to the EFCC urging it to revisit the allegations of various economic crimes against Mr Benedict Peters within seven working days with a view to bringing him to book,” sunnewsonline reported.

“The petition was to satisfy the legal requirement that specific demand for the performance of statutory duty must be made on a government agency such as EFCC before the Writ of Mandamus can lie against it,” sunnewsonline explained in its reportage.

The petitioners explained that they decided to approach the court, “at this time on the consolation that nobody, no matter how highly placed, is above the law and there is no limitation to criminal prosecution in Nigeria”.

AITEO is described as the largest indigenous oil-producing firm in Nigeria by output. Peters’ estimated net worth is around US$3 billion, making him the 7th richest man in Nigeria and the 17th-richest man in Africa, according to several reputable sources. When the Coronavirus pandemic broke out in Nigeria, Peters donated $30 million to the country’s COVID-19 fund.

Peters is a somewhat controversial figure, smeared with several allegations of corruption, criminal conspiracy, bribery, diversion of funds and money laundering. He is accused of conspiring with former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Alison-Maudeke, to misappropriate public funds.

While out of Nigeria in 2017, the country’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) declared him wanted in respect of crimes they claim he committed together with the infamous Mrs Alison-Maudeke, who is wanted in Nigeria but is currently held up in the UK where she is facing corruption charges.

After Peters was declared wanted, the EFCC imposed an Interim Forfeiture Order on his properties in the UK worth billions of dollars. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in Abuja lifted the Order and accused the EFCC of "gross misstatements, concealment and misrepresentation of facts".

However, in 2018, a high court in Nigeria ordered Peters to be removed from the wanted list since the EFCC did not obtain a warrant before placing him on the list. After the EFCC removed his name from the list, he did not return to Nigeria but went into self-imposed exile.

According to intelligence gathered by GhanaWeb, Peters has been in self-imposed exile in Ghana since 2018. He is a close ally of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and a friend of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.

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