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A three-year hunt paid off in June 2007 when the Kosmos team discovered oil - and lots of it. Jubilee Field, named by the government because the discovery came the same year the country celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence, was said to hold up to 1.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

The oil was located in the Tano Basin in the Gulf of Guinea, seven miles from the Ghanaian coastline in water as deep as 5,900 feet. New wells have been drilled west of the original site in water up to 6,758 feet deep.

With the potential of producing in excess of 300 million barrels of recoverable oil in its first phase and a production capacity of 120,000 barrels of crude per day, the Ghanaian government was looking at as much as $1 billion a year in revenue once production started, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The 120,000 barrels a day would have made Ghana the 50th largest oil producer in the world, ahead of countries such as France, Turkey and Spain, according to statistics compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

The local partner

The EO Group, a petroleum company owned by two Ghanaians, holds 1.75 percent interest in the Jubilee Field that could end up being worth as much as $200 million. EO first got Kosmos interested in coming to Ghana and then introduced the firm to government officials. Previous efforts by EO to get other U.S. oil companies involved had been unsuccessful.

EO’s two partners, George Owusu and Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei, had close ties with the Kufuor administration. Mr. Owusu served as Kosmos‘ representative in Ghana. Dr. Bawuah-Edusei, who practiced medicine in the Washington, D.C. area, later was appointed by Mr. Kufuor as ambassador to the United States.

While it is not unusual for foreign companies to have local partners, the current Ghanaian government asked the U.S. Justice Department last year to determine whether EO or Kosmos violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits payments to foreign officials to obtain or keep a business.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether there was an inquiry or not.

Kosmos, in a written statement, said while there were no specific allegations of an FCPA violation, it “voluntarily and fully cooperated” with Justice in the inquiry. The company said its external legal team “reviewed over 8 million pages of information” and found “no violations of the FCPA by Kosmos or anyone associated with the company’s business in Ghana.”

The EO Group, in a written statement, said they “never paid or promised anything to anyone in the Ghana government in order to secure its role with Kosmos.” It said the company’s share of the find is fair because they “quite literally brought the parties together to achieve the discovery of the Jubilee Field that is a country-changing event for all Ghanaians.”

Early attempts to sell

In late May 2009, Kosmos discussed with the Ghanaian minister of energy tentative plans to sell its 23.5 percent stake in Jubilee Field to a petroleum production company through a competitive bidding process. Kosmos has said that as an oil exploration company, it wanted to get its cash and move on.

A June 2, 2009, letter from Kosmos to GNPC Director of Operations Thomas Manu - obtained from a source in Ghana - says that Ghana Energy Minister Joe Oteng-Adjei told the U.S. company that if it “fully involved ” the GNPC in the bidding process, the government would allow the sale.

Later that same month, Kosmos refused a request by Mr. Oteng-Adjei that it step down as technical operator for the development phase of Jubilee Field because it was considering selling its stake.

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