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Africawatch

 US covert operations in Liberia  Ethiopia’s bullying tactics at the AU
The Pan-African Magazine Of Choice

Ghana-AMERI project:

‘It’s a win-win
deal for all’
10-MAR
$4.00 CDN $3.00 US2016
FEBRUARY/MARCH

03

0

56698 93707

4

His Royal Highness Al Maktoum
speaks exclusively to Africawatch

US: $5.00  Canada: C$4.00  UK: £3.00  South Africa: R24.95  Nigeria: N400  Liberia: US$4.00  Sierra Leone: LE9,000  Gambia: D80.00  Kenya KShs300  Ghana GH¢10.00

Cover Story Ghana-AMERI Project

A real deal

AMERI project good for
Ghana on all indicators
6

February/March 2016  Africawatch

Ghana’s national
electricity grid has been
enriched by another 250MW
of power, the production
of a fast-track project
installed by the Dubaibased independent power
producer, the AMERI
Group, whose venture
caused so much controversy
in the country in December
after a Norwegian tabloid
newspaper claimed that
the project cost had been
massively inflated by AMERI
at the expense of the
Ghanaian government. But,
as Africawatch has found
out from the actual facts
regarding the project, the
Norwegian newspaper’s
story was full of half-truths
as the AMERI deal is clearly
good for Ghana on all
indicators compared to
seven other such projects
installed in the country
in the last two years.
Our executive editor
Steve Mallory reports.

The AMERI plant at the Aboadze
thermal enclave, which has now
come online, providing Ghana with
250MW of badly-needed electricity.

Africawatch  February/March 2016

7

Cover Story Ghana-AMERI Project

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum is the sole owner of the AMERI Group,
and was the principal signee on the deal to build the fast-track power plant in Ghana.

T

he coming on stream in February of ten gas turbines installed
at Ghana’s Aboadze thermal
enclave in the Western Region
by the Dubai-based energy company, the AMERI Group, that
has added 250MW of most needed electricity
to the national grid has taught the West
African nation two important life lessons:
One, “politicians should desist from political
deviousness which is only meant to incite
people against the government”; and two,
“Don’t kill vital national projects just because
the Western media cries wolf, wolf.”
In recent years, the Ghanaian people, and
particularly their politicians, have developed

8

a self-defeating attitude that makes them
criticize everything and anything even when
no criticism is needed or thumb their noses at
things that should be embraced without
qualms.
“What I have seen happening too often,”
says a disturbed Ghanaian president, John
Dramani Mahama, “is people dismissing the
viewpoints of others without even listening to
what it is they have to say.”
This, the president insists, is a bad habit
for a developing nation because although it is
impossible for all Ghanaians to have one
opinion on how to get the country to the
expected place of development, it is still clear
that “we all want to reach the same destina-

February/March 2016  Africawatch

tion.” Thus, rather than any Ghanaian’s
responses to national issues “being an end-ofsubject full stop, they [must] be part of an ongoing discussion among the good people of
Ghana,” Mahama says, because if Ghanaians
continue to listen to one another, even the
“unrecoverable divisions” in the country on
party and other lines will be defeated.
The president’s advice is most apt when
juxtaposed with the AMERI ten gas turbines’
project. AMERI stands for the African Middle
East Resources Investment Company, based
in Dubai and it is solely owned by Sheikh
Ahmed Bin Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum, a
member of the ruling family of Dubai.
Since entering Ghana as an independent

The AMERI plant is already generating enough electricity to have almost made rolling power shortages a thing
of the past, and in five years full ownership will be transferred to the government of Ghana, free and clear.

power producer (IPP), the AMERI Group, like
its home government in the United Arab
Emirates, has enjoyed a cordial relationship
with the Ghanaian government. At the
government-to-government level, the UAE
has invested hundreds of millions of US
dollars in Ghana.

A controversial deal?
It was in the spirit of the cordial relations
between Ghana and the UAE that President
Mahama’s government collaborated with the
AMERI Group to invest in a brand new, fast
track power plant at the Aboadze thermal
enclave to help Ghana overcome the crippling

energy crisis that had bedeviled the country
since late 2013.
Thus, AMERI’s fast-track installation of
ten gas turbines at Aboadze to boost the
country’s electricity generation by a 250MW
was a godsend.
Records show that as of February 2016
when the project came on stream, the
government had not paid even a cent for
AMERI’s project, and “will not be making any
payments for the cost of the equipment,”
according to Ghana’s Ministry of Power. “The
government will only pay for the electricity
produced and received on the national grid,”
the ministry adds for good measure.
Thus, so far, all the costs of the project,

running into several hundreds of millions of
US dollars, have been borne by the AMERI
Group as it is a “Build, Own, Operate and
Transfer” (BOOT) project. The contract
provides that in five years’ time ownership of
the project will be transferred to Ghana after
AMERI had recouped its investment through
the sale of electricity to the national grid.
For the government, there were three
options for the project – outright purchase,
rental, and BOOT. Nominal costs for the
three were $438.9m, $477.3m and $516.3m
respectively. From these figures, the cheapest option was outright purchase, but the
government could not choose this option
because it did not have the funds to purchase.

Africawatch  February/March 2016

9

Cover Story Ghana-AMERI Project
The rental option was cheaper than the
BOOT option but at the end of the rental
option, the government would not own the
plant. Thus, though the outright purchase
and rental options were relatively cheaper
than the BOOT option, the government chose
the BOOT because it could spread payment
over a period and would own the plant at the
end of five years. This would help develop the
capacity of the state-owned power generation
company, the Volta River Authority (VRA),
and increase the portfolio of generating plants
in the country.
Furthermore, the lead-time for the BOOT
option is 3 months as against 9-12 months for
outright purchase. Compared with the cost of
load shedding to the economy, the government, at the time of signing the AMERI
contract, was projected to save between $80
million and $159 million once the AMERI
plant came on stream within the estimated
3-month period. As it happened, the 3-month
period was overshot to 12 months.
Nonetheless, when equated to 7 comparable plants in Ghana, the composite generation
tariff for the AMERI project of about
USc14.59kWh is lower than the average
approved composite tariff for the 7 plants at
USc14.94kWh.
Also, AMERI’s levelized tariff is the lowest
at USc11.46kWh compared to the tariffs for
the 7 comparable plants. “Levelized tariff” is
the approved tariff adjusted over the concession/contract period.
In other words, when comparing the
AMERI project (contract period of 5 years) to
the other plants that have a concession or
contract period of 20 years, one either has to
spread AMERI’s cost over a 20-year period or
compact the other plants’ cost into a 5-year
period to be able to make an acceptable
comparison.
Thus, when compared to similar power
plants that have been contracted or
constructed in Ghana over the last 2 years
(i.e. Amandi, Cenpower and Jacobsen),
AMERI has the lowest installed cost per kW.
For example, AMERI’s installed cost is 1,723
US$/kW, but Jacobsen Jelco Ghana Ltd is
1,769 US$/kW, Cenpower Generation Co. Ltd.
is 1,923 US$/kW, and Amandi Energy
Limited is 2,322 US$/kW.

10

Also, when levelized over a 20-year period,
AMERI’s capacity charge is the lowest compared with that of 9 comparable plants.

Other comparisons
Again, the AMERI project beats the others
on many more indicators. For example, the
internal rate of return to AMERI is about
17.3%, which is close to the lower end of the
Public Utility Regulatory Commission’s
allowable returns on power projects, which is
between 17% and 19%.
The returns to AMERI are also slightly
below the range of industry returns for IPPs,
which are 18-23% based on interviews conducted in Ghana by the Cambridge Economic
Policy Associates (CEPA) in August 2015.
Moreover, the security arrangement for
AMERI is a standby Letter of Credit (LC) of
$51 million provided by the government over
a coverage period of six months. Reviewed
comparable power plant agreements show the
value of their security ranged from nil to $25
million over a coverage period of zero to three
3 months.
However, most of the other projects are
backed by government Consent and Support
Agreements (GCSA) and, in some instances,
the investor has no obligation to hand over
the equipment to the government after the
contract period of 20 years. AMERI, on the
other hand, has no GCSA backing. Yet after
the 5-year contract period, the plant will be
handed over to the government.
In terms of shared responsibilities, the
AMERI agreement allocates risks between
the government and AMERI, but certain risks
that are sometimes borne by IPPs were
allocated to the government. But there were
good reasons for this.
For example, the VRA instead of AMERI
will be responsible for the fuel (gas) supply
to AMERI’s ten gas turbines. But this is a
reasonable risk for the government to take
because the VRA has an existing gas supply
agreement with the Ghana National Gas
Company. AMERI could not have put in place
similar fuel supply logistics within the fasttrack period the plant was required.
Also, treated water is needed to cool
the plant and for water injection to reduce

February/March 2016  Africawatch

emission from the plant. Such water treatment plants can take months to build and
AMERI could not have built one within
the time frame required for the project.
Fortuitously, the VRA has a water treatment
plant that can supply the requirements of the
AMERI turbines. It was therefore reasonable
for the government to take this risk.
Another risk taken by the government was
the construction delay risk, which meant that
the government did the civil works for the
project. Asking AMERI to be responsible for
ground preparation would have entailed
investigations by the company to familiarize
itself with the territory, among other things.
This could have caused delay. Given the
emergency nature and the site selected, this
risk was reasonable for the government to
bear. Furthermore, liquidated damages were
put in place to ensure that contractors and
subcontractors would complete their work on
time.
There was also grid access risk, which
was borne by the government. The grid is
operated by GRIDCO, a state-owned entity.
Any issue with the grid will, therefore, have
to be handled by GRIDCO. No IPP will accept
the risk for something it does not have
control over. This was therefore a reasonable
risk for the government to take.
Then came the construction cost risk,
which was again borne by the government.
AMERI is responsible for providing ten
GE TM2500 aeroderivative fuel gas turbine
generating sets. The government is responsible for providing a cleared level site acceptable to AMERI free and clear from
encumbrances, encroachments, loans, mortgages, claims, interests, debt, dues, duties,
charges, liens, burdens, taxes, cases, arrears,
disputes and litigation. This risk was
minimal as the government had an existing
site owned by the VRA, which was free from
all encumbrances, obligations or liabilities.
Lastly, the government bore the inflation
and foreign exchange risk, but this is normal
in all Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
because the charges are quoted in US dollars.
No IPP charges are quoted in cedis and no
IPP is prepared to bear the cedi depreciation
risk.
Thus, for any “normal” country, the AMERI

project should not be one to thumb noses at.
But Ghana is not a “normal” country these
days. Everything and anything must be
criticized, whether good or bad, especially as
presidential and parliamentary elections
loom menacingly on the horizon, on Nov. 7,
2016. It is all to score cheap political points.

Petty politics
Interestingly, concerning AMERI’s project,
petty politics was given huge legs to stand on
by a story dripping with sheer malice
published in mid-December 2015 by the
Norwegian tabloid newspaper, Verdens Gang
(VG), which claimed that the AMERI Group
had robbed Ghana of a whopping $290 million
by inflating the original $220 million cost of
the ten gas turbines to $510 million.
VG also claimed that AMERI’s CEO at the
time the project agreement was signed on
February 10, 2015, was an international
fraudster wanted by “the Norwegian and
Swiss police for spectacular acts of fraud
committed [in] the last ten years.”
The CEO, Umar Farooq, left AMERI in
August 2015 “to pursue other bigger business
opportunities” elsewhere, according to the
company. But Farooq was painted by VG as
an international criminal who should not
have been touched even with a barge pole by
both AMERI and the Ghanaian government.
The inference was that the government
committed a capital sin for dealing with
AMERI when Farooq was its CEO, and also
for entering into an arrangement with a company of dubious background on whom proper
due diligence was not done.
But even a cursory glance at the AMERI
agreement reveals that Mahama’s government did not deal with Farooq as an individual at all. He simply signed the contract
agreement as a witness, not the principal
signee.
The principal signee was AMERI’s sole
owner, Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, a
member of the UAE ruling family. He signed
the agreement on behalf of the company, not
Farooq. Thus, no matter the interpretation
one may want to put on the deal, the fact still
remains that Mahama’s government dealt
with the AMERI Group as a company, not

Farooq as an individual.
Moreover, according to AMERI, Farooq
“was never a shareholder nor a partner in the
company.” After his departure in August last
year, AMERI appointed a new CEO in the
person of Ziad Barakat who is currently at
the post.
But the Norwegian tabloid, which seems to
have a long-standing axe to grind with
Farooq, painted him as having swindled the
Ghana government by inflating the contract
sum. VG claimed that its investigations show
that the turbines usually sell for 220 million
dollars. “So why did the West African country
pay 290 million dollars more than the
standard price?” the newspaper asked
provocatively.
AMERI calls this “a ridiculous claim” since
after signing the contract, Mahama’s government sent it to Parliament for approval,
which was given after thorough parliamentary oversight. If there were any swindling
taking place, Parliament’s due diligence
mechanism would have picked it up. “We
would never enter into a deal if it was not
done with full transparency [and] honesty to
ensure our integrity,” AMERI adds.
The company also rejects VG’s allegations
against Farooq, saying that “during the
tenure of his employment, Farooq was never
wanted or alleged [to have committed] any
crime/fraud in any part of the world.” After
signing the contract with Ghana, AMERI
says it “assembled a world class team of
developers to accomplish the job on time and
on budget.”

Denials all round
When the VG story broke in mid-December,
Ghana’s Ministry of Power issued a statement clearly stating that the VG story was
“false, misleading and a gross misrepresentation of the facts”.
This was because, according to the
ministry, the agreement with AMERI is a
Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT)
scheme and not an outright purchase of
generating plants by the Ghanaian government. Therefore, no money has been paid by
the government and no money will be paid by
the government for the cost of the equipment,

except for the supply of electricity by AMERI
from the project.
Anybody with the slightest knowledge
about BOOT projects knows that it is the
private investor or investors that bear the
project cost, not the recipient governments, a
point made abundantly clear by AMERI in its
own rebuttal statement issued on the heels of
the Ministry of Power’s statement.
Nevertheless, knowing the country which
it serves, the Ministry of Power went at
length to explain that: “Per the agreement
with AMERI, the Government of Ghana
through the Volta River Authority (VRA) will
only make payments to AMERI for power
produced and supplied to the VRA just like
any other independent power producer.
“Also, per the agreement, the government
was required to provide a standby Letter of
Credit for an amount of $51 million, which LC
has been raised. Ghana will however assume
eventual ownership of the equipment after
five years of production and sale of the power
to the VRA.”
Tellingly, the Norwegian journalists who
wrote the VG story had merely checked on the
Internet for how much the turbines, made by
the American giant GE, cost. They then
multiplied one unit by ten, arriving at a total
sum of $220 million. This gave them the
strength to make the egregious claim that
“Ghana will lease the ten gas turbines for five
years. After that, Ghana becomes owner of
the turbines after paying an equipment cost
of 510 million dollars.”
Even then, VG’s quoted price of $220
million was just for the outright purchase of
the turbines, that is, if the Ghanaian government had bought them outright, which
incidentally was not the case. Importantly,
the quoted $220 million was exclusive of all
other costs of the project such as auxiliaries,
sub-station, balance of plant, installation of
equipment, cost of financing, operation, maintenance, and other such things. But under the
Ghana-AMERI agreement, the cost of all
these things was paid by AMERI, not the government.
“From the foregoing,” the Ministry of Power
explained, “it is false to claim that the
Government of Ghana signed a $510 million
agreement for the plant, when it should have

Africawatch  February/March 2016

11

Cover Story Ghana-AMERI Project
been $220 million. On the claims that the
manufacturers of the plant, GE, could have
been contacted to negotiate a direct purchase,
the Ministry wishes to state that an earlier
offer from GE Consortium to the VRA for
similar equipment on rental basis proved to
be far more expensive and was therefore
rejected by the VRA.”

Due diligence was done
The insinuation that the Ministry of Power
did not do due diligence on AMERI as a company and the project itself was rebuffed by
the ministry, which pointed out that apart
from its own due diligence done on AMERI,
the Bank of Ghana had also conducted its
own due diligence on the company before
establishing the $51 million standby Letter of
Credit for the project.
Moreover, the Ghanaian Parliament, which
ratified the agreement before it was operationalized, confirmed in its own statement
that the Ministry of Power’s side of the story
was right, noting that “due process was
followed in the discharge of [Parliament’s]
duties.”
“The said agreement was first brought to
Parliament on March 3, 2015, and it took 18
days for it to be approved on March 20,” a
statement issued by the Office of Parliament
said.
According to parliamentary procedure, the
agreement was first referred to the House’s
Committee on Mines and Energy. “The Committee, in deliberating on the agreement,
asked for additional information from the
Ministry of Power which was duly provided.
Further, the Committee invited the sector
minister and other technical officers to attend
and proffer expert advice on how to proceed
with the agreement which advice was taken
and acted upon by the Committee.”
Parliament therefore dismissed criticisms
made by some members of the public that
the House did not do due diligence before
ratifying the agreement.
This was not the case, according to the
Office of Parliament. “Once the agreement
was laid [before the House], the document
became a public document and any individual
or group of persons who wanted to comment
on it could have done so in a memo to the
Committee or to the House as a whole.”
In effect, the agreement was not rushed
through Parliament as claimed by some
critics, and no MP was deprived the chance to
properly scrutinize the agreement before
approval.
What is true, according to the Office of
Parliament, is that because of the importance
of the project, which was to fast track 250MW
of new power into the national grid at a time

12

power outages were threatening to bring the
nation to its knees, when the Committee on
Mines and Energy finished its work in 18
days and brought the agreement back to the
floor of the House, Parliament invoked Order
80(1) to fast-track the approval stage.
Some critics say this stage took only few
minutes in the House. But, according to the
Office of Parliament, “this is an indication of
the importance attached to the agreement,” a
point wholly supported by the Majority
Leader in Parliament, Alban Bagbin, who
insists that the House exercised due diligence
by thoroughly examining the agreement
before giving its approval.
“Most of the issues had already been
addressed at the committee level,” Bagbin
said, “and so there was no need to spend time
debating on any new matter” when the agreement came back for approval. “I really do not
see anything wrong with the agreement. ...
There is absolutely nothing wrong with it,”
Bagbin told journalists at Parliament House.

A viable project
Looking at it objectively and without
political bias, the AMERI project is not a bad
one that should be killed on the basis of a
tabloid newspaper report emanating from
faraway Norway. It is a viable project that
will help the nation and make a difference to
the economy and the lives of the people and
businesses.
Fast-tracking 250MW of electricity into a
national grid that was slowly dying is
a worthwhile venture. At the time of the
signing of the AMERI contract, the Akosombo
Dam, the mother of Ghana’s power generating system, was only producing 550MW from
its installed capacity of 1020MW. The other
dams were producing far below their installed
capacities.
This reduced production of Ghana’s dams
was at the very heart of the electricity
problem, so fast-tracking 250MW into the
national grid via AMERI’s project was not a
bad thing at all. It was seen by the government as part of the necessary efforts to end
the power outages.
In the end, it took the government up
to February 2016 to finally improve the electricity situation sufficiently enough to end the
load-shedding, to the delight of Ghanaians,
one of which, a musician, quickly released a
single announcing the death of dumsor and
extolling the virtues of President Mahama
who alone among recent presidents, according
to the musician, has been able to deal a mortal blow to Ghana’s longstanding electricity
problems as he promised in his 2014 state of
the nation address to “fix it” permanently.
By February, load-shedding was almost a

February/March 2016  Africawatch

thing of the past as a constant supply of
electricity had been restored nationwide, thus
pulling the rug from underneath the opposition parties that had hoped to use it as an
election issue.
Therefore, putting it all in context, the fasttracking of 250MW of badly-needed electricity into the national grid through
AMERI’s project is a big deal that should not
be downplayed. But not all Ghanaians see it
that way.
Thus despite all the assurances given by
Parliament and the government via the
Ministry of Power that there was nothing
wrong with the AMERI deal, the main
opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), went
ballistic over the AMERI deal.
The party issued a 10-point statement on
December 14, which was long on hyperbole
and short on logic, attacking the government
and all concerned for allegedly shortchanging the country on the AMERI deal.

NPP’s statement
Looking back and considering the real facts
of the deal, the NPP statement, signed by the
party’s acting national chairman, Freddy
Blay, has become an embarrassment for the
party. It was pure petty politics and a classic
opposition tactic of producing noise in the
country for cheap political gain, particularly
as Election Year 2016 was just around the
corner.
The NPP claimed that it had “reason to
believe that the public information available
on this AMERI deal is significantly more in
what it covers than it reveals, especially the
key players behind the deal, the extremely
high costs of acquisition, how much the
government has paid in cash, guarantees and
escrowed amounts and other issues.”
It was clear that the NPP, a party that
wants to recapture national power in the
November 2016 elections, could not see the
shoddiness of the VG investigation and the
dreadful illogicalities contained in the story
that triggered the NPP response.
As such, the NPP demonstrated a blithe
disregard for accuracy when it said “the
investigations, done by the two [Norwegian]
journalists, first of all, confirm several suspicions raised by local observers surrounding
this deal, as well as raise questions that have
not, and will not be answered by the
president’s agents merely issuing statements
and press releases. It calls for an open,
bipartisan full-scale enquiry into it.”
Repeating itself, the NPP said: “It is now
evident that an urgent, immediate open
public inquiry by Parliament, through a
bipartisan committee, into details of the deal
is urgently required”, adding that the party

“I have spoken to some of the minority
members about why they keep mentioning
my name and they say it is just for politics.
The problem with this country is the politics,
we play politics with everything and so
people are careful before doing anything for
the country,” Ibrahim added, sadly.
In the end, despite all the noise created by
the NPP statement, no parliamentary probe
was instituted, and the AMERI project went
ahead uninterrupted and has come on stream
with 250MW of electricity, a classic example
of much ado about nothing.
In early February, Dr. Kwame Ampofo, the
chairman of the board of Ghana’s Energy

was “extremely concerned about the reckless
and wicked manner that the affairs of our
country are being conducted under President
John Mahama and his NDC government.”
“On these and other burning questions
requiring answers, we of the New Patriotic
Party are convinced and feel obliged to
demand, on behalf of the people of Ghana, an
immediate and public inquiry into the
AMERI Group deal. Nothing below this will
satisfy Ghanaians as to the propriety of this
deal,” the party said.
The NPP even alleged that two companies
were connected to the AMERI transaction
and were also closely connected to President

government” (as one of the radio stations put
it) had swindled the nation out of hundreds of
millions of US dollars in the AMERI deal.
The NPP statement greatly disturbed the
president’s brother, Ibrahim Mahama, who
gave a radio interview to defend himself,
insisting that “governments will go and
governments will come but [his company]
Engineers and Planners will still be here. The
Minority [in Parliament] who are now accusing me in this AMERI deal knows me better
than my own brother’s party and they know I
am not involved in it. I’m not interested in it.
If I were involved, they would have seen me
in Parliament.”

Mahama. “These are Engineers & Planners,
owned by the President’s brother and entrepreneur, Ibrahim Mahama. In fact, President
John Mahama was at one time a director of
Engineers & Planners. The other firm
[is] Amandi Construction, which has also
generously benefitted from government contracts and its executives are very close to the
President,” the NPP claimed. These allegations turned out to be totally false.

The high-tech Control Center of Grid Company of Ghana, where electricity
produced in the country is dispatched and transmitted from wholesale suppliers
to bulk customers. The Control Center is registering the additional 250MW
generated by the AMERI plant, ending load-shedding in the West African nation.
Despite the controversy about the AMERI project, it all went according to plan,
and President John Mahama’s promise to do something to fix the power shortages
has been achieved. A solution was found, and found quickly, and all the criticisms
in Ghana can’t hold a candle to the simple fact that when you flick a switch now,
you know the lights will go on.

Noise, noise, noise
As expected, the NPP statement caused
a lot of noise in the country, becoming a freefor-all for the 250 or so radio stations and
several TV stations in a nation short of serious media content. Thus, each radio station,
hoping to outdo the other, embellished the
statement as much as it wanted, creating the
impression that the “wicked Mahama

Ibrahim lamented the fact that there was
no longer “truth in this country.”
“I will not win the elections for the Minority
because I don’t do shady deals. In everything,
people just try to drag Ibrahim’s name into it
but I am not the one who will be
involved
in everything just because my brother is the
president,” he said.

Commission, after a visit to the AMERI
power plant, said he was happy about the
quality of work done so far and said the
soon-to-be-inaugurated project, which would
rely on the supply of natural gas from the
Ghana Gas Company plant at Atuabo, would
greatly enhance the electricity supply in the
country. 

Africawatch  February/March 2016

13


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