In July, former President John Mahama of Ghana travelled to Namibia with two representatives of the controversial Ameri Group to discuss energy opportunities. Mahama refuses to comment.
VG has followed this story for more than two years.
In 2015 the newspaper revealed that Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is still wanted by Norwegian police for fraud, and a sheikh from Dubai had made an energy deal with the Ghanaian government that included an overcharge equivalent to some USD 150 million.
Today VG can reveal that the former Ghanaian president this July entered into a cooperative arrangement with the sheikh’s company.
John Mahama brought the two men representing the sheikh to Namibia - seeking to clinch possible energy deals with yet another African nation: Namibia.
This July, Mahama travelled to the Namibian capital, Windhoek, with employees of the “private office” of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmouk al Maktoum of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This company now owns the Ameri Group, also known as the Africa Middle East Resources Investment Group LLC.
According to Namibian officials, Mahama claimed he was in Windhoek as an advocate for the African Development Bank.
At a news conference after Mahama’s meeting with Namibian President Hage Geingob, the former Ghanaian leader appeared with two men professionally based in Dubai.
Until now, it has not been officially known who these men were.
But VG can now reveal their identities:
One was Ameri Group CEO Maher Al Alili, who is also CEO of the sheikh’s private office.
The other was Mustafa Ahmed, who left behind a business card in Namibia embossed with the logo of the sheikh’s office.
John Mahama with representatives from Ameri Group/The private office of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum after meeting with Namibias president Geingob in July 2017.
They both work for the sheikh who signed the controversial Ameri deal together with Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is wanted internationally by Interpol.
A government commission in Ghana, led by Mr. Thomas Addison, has concluded that the deal is fraudulent, if Ameri does not come back to re-negotiate - or pay back more than USD 150 million.
In an interview with VG at the end of October, Albertous Aocham, a spokesman for Namibia’s president, provided new and striking information:
Mahama himself set up the meeting in Namibia and arranged for the sheikh’s representatives to join him.
– A letter requesting an audience with the Namibian president was sent via the Namibian Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation from the office of the former President Mahama, as is customary practice, Aocham tells VG.
Not until Mahama’s delegation arrived in Namibia were his mysterious companions presented to the Namibian government, according to Aocham:
– The two gentlemen were introduced by Mr John Mahama (as working for) The Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook al Maktoum. They were introduced as Mr Mustafa Ahmed and Mr Maher Al Alili. The names of the two gentlemen or the name of the company were not mentioned in the letter from former President Mahama.
– Among his delegation were these two gentlemen, as well as the former ambassador of Ghana to Namibia, Alhaji A. R. Haruna, Aocham adds, then continues:
– Mahama informed President Geingob that he was in Namibia in his capacity as an AfDB (African Development Bank) advocate for African energy self-sufficiency, and brought UAE representatives to Namibia after they identified the country as one of the most attractive destinations for electricity infrastructure investments.
Since July there has been no further contact between the parties.
One of the men, Mustafa Ahmed, denies to VG that he had a role in the Namibia visit.
– I do not work for his highnesses private office,” he says.
– So what happened in Namibia?
– I advise several groups, not just them, he replies.
– Nothing happened in Namibia, so if you want to make a big story, that’s up to you.
– But the sheikh’s logo and your number appear on the same business card. How do you explain that?
– I don’t know what you are talking about. I have nothing to hide. I know him. I have advised him and advise him, but I do not work for him. I do not have an official position with him, insists Ahmed.
A few days later, the company’s CEO, Maher Al Alili, contacted VG and threatened a lawsuit. In 2015 the company had threatened to sue VG for USD 150 million for its reporting on the controversial electrical power deal between Ghana and Ameri Group.
The company said VG had published false claims about Umar Farooq Zahoor, the man who signed the Ameri agreement and is still wanted internationally.
– Who gave you the right to write about Umar? asks Al Alili, the CEO of Ameri Group, by telephone from Dubai.
– If there is anything wrong with the story we have the option of suing you, he says.
– The company does not want to be open with information or grant interviews with the media.
Al Alili nevertheless confirms that he was in Namibia working for the sheikh’s office.
He refuses to comment on Mahama’s ties to the Dubai company.
– You’ll have to ask Mahama about that, says Al Alili.
For seven weeks VG has tried to make direct contact with Ghana’s former president in order to obtain comment.
His special advisor, the lawyer Joyce Bawah-Motare, confirms that Mahama has received VG’s inquiry.
– Of course. Mr Mahama sees any request that arrives. I am telling you he is not available, and that I will get back to you if he becomes available, the special advisor told VG in mid-October.
VG’s many queries have not been well received by the ex-president’s inner circle.
– He has no obligation to give you an interview. You can’t force Mr Mahama to talk to you. Can you force the King of Norway to give you an interview?
The Ameri Group has repeatedly denied that Umar Farooq Zahoor, the man who signed the controversial energy agreement with Ghana in 2015, is a wanted internationally by law enforcement authorities.
That is not the case.
– He is still wanted by the police internationally, Norwegian district attorney Carl Graff Hartmann, confirms to VG.
– We have received a response from the United Arab Emirates stating they will not grant our request for the extradition of Umar Farooq Zahoor, he continues.
That means the UAE refuses to turn over the internationally wanted man, who has a Pakistani passport, to Norway.
Zahoor himself has claimed he no longer works for Ameri Group, though VG has disclosed that he still plays a key role in the sheikh’s private office, which owns Ameri Group.
This was also confirmed by a PR officer at the sheikh's office.
– Yes, he is working there, said Ahmed al Baloushi to VG.
In September, Zahoor travelled to Pakistan with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmouk al Maktoum and CEO Maher Al Alili to further discuss yet another Ameri-related deal with Pakistani company FWO.
Zahoor has declined to comment on his professional affairs in Dubai.
– He sees no reason to comment on his working relationships or assignments to a Norwegian newspaper, and it is beyond my mandate as a Norwegian defence lawyer to express an opinion about this,” his Norwegian lawyer, John Christian Elden, writes in email to VG on Zahoor’s behalf.
Zahoor also points out that the Ameri-deal is still ongoing in Ghana.