French billionaire detained over alleged corruption in Africa

Apr 26, 2018, 01:17
French billionaire detained over alleged corruption in Africa

French billionaire Vincent Bollore has been detained for questioning in an investigation into alleged corruption during lucrative port deals in Africa.

Bollore Group said it won the port contracts because of its long experience in Africa and 2 billion euros in investment on the continent in recent years. The French judges are examining whether Havas supported the electoral campaigns of candidates who once in office granted port concessions to Bollore's group, the magazine said.

Gilles Alix, Bollore group's chief executive, and Jean-Philippe Dorent, the head of global division at advertising group Havas, were also questioned, a judicial source said.

Vincent Bollore remains the owner of Groupe Bollore. A source close to Bollore said his departure as Vivendi chairman was not related to the investigation.

Groupe Bollore's Bollore Africa Logistics has a strong grip on port operations in West Africa, holding 16 container port concessions, as well as several rail concessions.

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Months after he became Guinea's first freely elected president, Conde summarily terminated the contract of Conakry's port operator - a subsidiary of French shipping company NCT Necotrans - and gave it to rival Bollore.

Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who has lost two elections to Conde, told AFP that the decision had "surprised many".

In 2016, police searched Bollore Group's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Puteaux.

"It is due to the ongoing inquiry in France that Guineans discover the true motive of this unjust and illegal move taken by Alpha Conde in the wake of his taking power", he said.

He denied any wrongdoing by Bollore.

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Havas executive Dorent also worked on the communications strategy of Gnassingbe, who succeeded his father Gnassingbe Eyadema upon his death in 2005.

Although the company used the term indicted in its statement in English, the French term is usually translated as placed under formal investigation. The news comes only one week after Bolloré installed his 38-year-old son, Yannick, as the head of the company's board ahead of a crucial shareholder vote with Elliot Management over the fate of Telecom Italia scheduled to take place May 4th.

It added it would cooperate with the investigation and denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation into Bollore's activities in Guinea and Togo raises questions over whether other contracts won in the region by his holding company are under scrutiny.

He revived its flagging fortunes after taking the helm in the early 1980s and embarked on a blitz of acquisitions, earning a reputation as a formidable businessman.

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Bollore Group owns a 20 percent stake in Vivendi.

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