Suspected of corruption, a close associate of the Malagasy president arrested in the United Kingdom.
Romy Andrianarisoa, the chief of staff to the Malagasy president, was arrested on Thursday in London, according to a statement released on Monday by the UK National Crime Agency. She is suspected of demanding bribes for the awarding of mining licenses to the Gemfields mining group.
The chief of staff to the Malagasy president and a French man described as her “associate” were arrested in the UK on suspicion of demanding bribes for the awarding of mining licenses to the British mining group, Gemfields.
Romy Andrianarisoa, 46, and Philippe Tabuteau, 54, were arrested on Thursday in London, the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) announced in a statement on Monday, August 14. The company had expressed its concerns to the British authorities, and the two suspects were arrested in the Victoria area “during a meeting where they are suspected of attempting to solicit” sums totaling 250,000 Swiss francs (260,000 euros) “and a 5% stake in the company,” the NCA said.
According to the Financial Times, which broke the news on Sunday evening, this latest request was for a stake in all of Gemfields’ projects in Madagascar, where it has owned the Oriental Mining company since 2008.
Removed from office
Romy Andrianarisoa and Philippe Tabuteau appeared in court on Saturday in the UK. The court ordered that they be remanded in custody until a hearing on September 8 in the Southwark Crown Court. They each face up to ten years in prison.
“I am grateful to Gemfields for bringing this matter to our attention and for their continued cooperation with the investigation,” said Andy Kelly, head of the NCA’s International Corruption Unit, as quoted in the statement. When contacted by AFP, Gemfields did not respond.
The Malagasy presidency announced on Monday that, “in view of the situation,” Romy Andrianarisoa has been “removed from office with immediate effect.”
The close ally of President Andry Rajoelina had been officially on leave since last week, the presidency noted in a statement, adding that “the Malagasy authorities are unaware of the reasons for her trip to the United Kingdom.”
The case comes less than three months before the first round of the presidential election on November 9 in the large Indian Ocean island. Andry Rajoelina, whose dual French-Malagasy nationality has recently caused controversy, has not yet officially announced his candidacy.
“Andry Rajoelina must go”
“This case is just one example of the extreme corruption that plagues our country to the detriment of all Malagasy people. Andry Rajoelina must go, for the good of my country!” reacted Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, one of the main opponents of Andry Rajoelina.
Madagascar is ranked 142nd out of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Last month, the NGO called on presidential candidates to commit to fighting “the tentacular nature of corruption networks in Madagascar and the intensity of the political and judicial protection surrounding them, which promotes impunity.”
In 2018, just a few months before the previous presidential election, Madagascar experienced a political crisis triggered by the adoption of controversial electoral laws, which resulted in prosecutions against 79 deputies suspected of accepting bribes.
The country’s justice system also announced in November that it had opened an investigation into the lychee trade, in which the country is a major producer, following a report by Transparency International highlighting suspicions of corruption and money laundering.
Gemfields, also the owner of the jeweler Fabergé, operates an emerald mine in Zambia and a ruby mine in Mozambique. In Madagascar, the group holds concessions but currently has no active operations.
According to Gemfields’ latest annual report, Oriental Mining holds “a number of concessions for a range of minerals, including emerald and sapphire,” and plans to resume procedures this year to obtain additional permits in the country following delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.