Conakry, Guinea | AFP | Guinean President Alpha Conde said Thursday he would file a complaint in the French courts over allegations raised in a corruption case embroiling French billionaire Vincent Bollore.
“I shall bring a complaint in Paris for false accusation,” Conde told reporters in Conakry, without giving further details, during an address to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Conde — who is said to be close to industrialist Bollore — also took aim at the Guinean press for, in his view, failing “to defend the nation”.
“You never protested when they tell stories about your country because you continue to misinform the population,” said Conde, 80, stating that local journalists had “not sought to find out the truth here”.
Bollore — charged last month over contracts to operate two African ports — is by far the most prominent business leader to be investigated in France for suspicious activities in Africa.
The 66-year-old head of the Bollore Group, was charged after authorities launched an investigation into how its African logistics subsidiary secured contracts to run Lome port in Togo and Conakry port in Guinea.
Prosecutors are looking at whether Bollore Group’s communications arm, Havas, undercharged Guinean President Alpha Conde and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe for work on their campaigns as a sweetener for the contracts. The Bollore group has denied the accusations.
In a newspaper opinion article on Sunday, Bollore said the continent was wrongfully portrayed in France as a “land of misrule, even corruption”.
“People imagine heads of state deciding by themselves to award huge contracts to unscrupulous investors,” he wrote.
Bollore, one of France’s most powerful businessmen, sits at the head of a sprawling business empire with revenues of 18.3 billion euros ($22.4 billion) in 2017 and interests in everything from construction and logistics to media, advertising and agriculture.
Africa accounts for about 20 percent of its turnover, excluding the Vivendi media group which is controlled by the family-run Bollore Group.