Godfrey Osei has always been an ambitious man. As a low level government employee in Ghana, he was arrested and jailed for his participation in a 1983 coup attempt against the Marxist government of Jerry Rawlings. However, Osei was able to escape from the Ghanian prison and made his way to the United States. Once there, he soon began to plot another coup against Jerry Rawlings.
Stories vary, but one way or another Godfrey Osei was able to raise approximately $500,000. One story version is that Osei borrowed the funds from a Chinese organized crime group in New York after agreeing to pay interest rates of 300 percent and promising the group gambling concessions in Ghana once he secured control of the country. Another, less Hollywoodesque version, is that Osei was funded by Israel’s Mossad and/or America’s Central Intelligence Agency – both of whom wanted Jerry Rawlings gone.
In possession of working capital for his venture, Osei then focused on acquiring weaponry. For this, he turned to a Texas commodities broker named Ted Bishop, who happened to have very good connections with Argentina’s Fabricaciones Militares, the government arms producer (and also connections to Israel’s Mossad, which strengthens the funding story above). In exchange for his assistance, Bishop was allegedly promised exclusive marketing rights for Ghana’s coffee and cocoa crops (again after Osei was in power, of course). Argentina, still suffering from a negative impression of their military equipment following the Falklands fiasco, was happy to have a buyer for their weaponry. Osei spent $200,000 on six tons of weapons from Fabricaciones Militares that included 70 FAL rifles, submachine guns, revolvers, ammunition for all of these firearms and fragmentation grenades. In the midst of his dealmaking, Osei had been able to pick up eight American mercenaries (Vietnam veterans) for his project. Perhaps of interest to this audience, one of the mercenaries was an international relations graduate student at California’s San Francisco State University.
The plan to place Godfrey Osei in control of Ghana was as follows: The men were to go ashore with Zodiac inflatable boats near the city of Accra and strike a government compound there, freeing prisoners in a nearby jail who were Central Intelligence Agency employees imprisoned by Jerry Rawlings. The group would then split into two assault teams – one would attack the presidential palace and the other would attack the remaining government buildings of interest. Once their objectives had been achieved, the two assault groups would reunite for the purpose of attacking a Libyan base and training center 40 miles from Accra.
To make this plan a reality, the eight American mercenaries were to pick up the weapons Osei had purchased in Buenos Aires, Argentina, using a seagoing tug named the Nobistor, and then proceed to the coast of Africa – the Ivory Coast (Cote d’ Ivoire) to be specific. Upon their arrival, the Nobistor and the mercenaries were to rendezvous with 80 to 100 trained soldiers loyal to Osei. The mercenaries were to be paid $10,000 for ferrying the weapons to Ghana. As compensation for their service in support of the actual overthrow of the government, they were supposedly promised access to the Ghanian national treasury and the national gold and diamond mines.
The plan started out well. However, after picking up the weapons in Argentina, loading them on the Nobistor and getting underway toward the coast of Africa, the mercenaries mutinied. The men had lost confidence in Osei, who had declined to join them on their journey at the last minute and had taken to using a swagger stick and strutting around wearing a beret with a Nazi SS badge on it. More importantly though, evidence indicated that the Ghanian government was aware of the pending invasion. If true, the mercenaries would have been slaughtered upon their arrival in Ghana. Demanding that the crew of the boat turn back toward South America, the group dropped anchor in Guanabara Bay, a small port 20 miles east of Rio de Janeiro.
It was at the Nobistor’s captain’s insistence that they dock in Brazil. However, he could have perhaps chosen a more ideal location for the Nobistor to land as they arrived at a sensitive time in Brazil. An agrarian reform movement had provoked armed resistance from wealthy landowners opposed to distributing their land to millions of peasants. Searching the Nobistor, it did not take the Federal Police long to discover the six tons of weapons. The Brazilian authorities considered it “too much of a coincidence” that six tons of heavy weaponry would arrive on their shores just as wealthy landowners were desperately seeking arms, and all eight men were jailed with sentences ranging from four to five years. After one of the men wrote to his wife requesting “iron enriched” vitamins, she knew exactly what he meant and mailed four hack saw blades, hidden inside a package of Carnation powdered milk. Half of the men were able to escape in an attempt that one described as “5% planning and 95% luck” and make their way on an extraordinary journey across South America back to the United States.
I was fortunate enough to correspond with a member of the mercenary team (who wishes to remain anonymous) and he was able to fill in many of the above details.
Ghana and the Nobistor Affair Outcome: Failure
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