Aide to Madagascar leader accused of seeking bribe from gemstone miner

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The Madagascan president’s chief of staff has been charged in the UK with a bribery offence over an approach that the National Crime Agency said had been made to a gemstone mining company.

The NCA said Romy Andrianarisoa, chief of staff to president Andry Rajoelina, and Philippe Tabuteau, an associate of Andrianarisoa, were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of seeking a bribe from UK mining company Gemfields to obtain licences in the island nation.

According to the NCA, Andrianarisoa, 46, and Tabuteau, a 54-year-old French national, are suspected of seeking to secure bribes worth around £225,000 as well as a 5 per cent equity stake in Gemfields, which informed the NCA of the allegations.

Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau were arrested in London on Thursday afternoon, the agency said, at a meeting where they were suspected of having attempted to solicit a bribe. The arrest followed a “fast-paced investigation into suspected bribery in action,” said the NCA.

Gemfields has since 2008 owned Madagascar-based Oriental Mining, which is licensed to mine precious and semi-precious stones in the country. It currently holds licences to extract rubies, emeralds and sapphires there, according to updates from the London and Johannesburg-listed group, but it does not have any operating mines in the country. The NCA did not specify what licences the alleged offences related to.

“I am grateful to Gemfields for bringing this matter to our attention and for their ongoing co-operation with the investigation,” said Andy Kelly, head of the international corruption Unit at the NCA.

“Their quick reactions to engage the NCA have been critical to our ability to pursue this case.”

The pair were remanded in custody until their hearing on 8 September at Southwark Crown Court. Each has been charged with one count of requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe under the Bribery Act 2010.

Offences under the relevant section of the act can incur fines or a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Gemfields declined to comment. The Madagascan government, Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There is no suggestion of allegations against Rajoelina, a DJ and entrepreneur turned politician. He was previously president from 2009 to 2014, after a military mutiny threw its support behind him, ending a political stand-off.

He won the presidency again in 2018 elections. The first round of the next presidential election is scheduled to be held in November.

Mining has traditionally been a major industry in Madagascar, contributing to the majority of inbound investment into the country between 2005 and 2013. However, that has slowed in recent years, partly as a result of political uncertainty in the wake of the 2009 coup.

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