British minister accused of helping cocoa trade donor

31st October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British minister intervened on behalf of a cocoa company that gave his political campaign tens of thousands of pounds (dollars) to help it overturn a trade ban in Ghana, a newspaper said Sunday.

Andrew Mitchell, international development secretary in Prime Minister David Cameron's government, denied he had done anything wrong.

The Sunday Times said that cocoa trader Anthony Ward wrote to the minister in July asking him to help lift a trading ban imposed by Ghana on his firm after one of its contractors was involved in cocoa smuggling.

Although it was not in his ministerial remit, Mitchell telephoned the British high commissioner in Ghana to discuss the matter, and his officials in London asked the Foreign Office to give it "urgent attention", the paper said.

A junior foreign minister subsequently lobbied the vice-president of Ghana on behalf of Ward's firm, Armajaro Holdings, and the partial trading ban has now been lifted except for in one district of the country, the paper said.

Armajaro Holdings gave sums totalling 40,000 pounds (64,000 dollars, 45,000 euros) to Michell's parliamentary office between August 2006 and December 2009, the Sunday Times said.

The company, whose audacious deals have earned Ward the nickname "Chocfinger", also gave 50,000 pounds in May 2004 to the Conservative party that Cameron leads and which Mitchell is a member of.

A spokesman for Mitchell denied any wrongdoing, saying: "The letter from Armajaro was dealt with in accordance with normal ministerial procedures and it was immediately made clear that the Conservative party had previously received donations from the company."

The newspaper said Ward had declined to comment.

© 2010 AFP

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