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Madagascan president’s ex-aide convicted of offering mining licence for bribes

Madagascan president’s ex-aide convicted of offering mining licence for bribes
A truck travels along a mine pit at Gemfields Group Ltd.s ruby mine near Montepuez in Mozambique, on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Montepuez is home to the worlds biggest known ruby deposit. Photographer: Matthew Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina's ex-chief of staff was convicted in a London court on Tuesday of offering to help precious stone miner Gemfields GEMGE.L win lucrative mining rights in exchange for substantial bribes.

By Sam Tobin

Romy Andrianarisoa, 47, was accused of seeking substantial payments from Gemfields between 2021 and 2023.

She came into contact with Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson in 2021 and offered to help the company expand its business into Madagascar.

Gemfields, which owns the Faberge jewellery brand, became suspicious and approached Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which deployed an undercover officer posing as a consultant negotiating on Gemfields’ behalf.

During conversations with the purported consultant, known as “Charles” to protect his identity, Andrianarisoa and her associate, Philippe Tabuteau, sought around 270,000 Swiss francs ($310,000) between them.

The pair also wanted a 5% stake in a Gemfields company mining in Madagascar which, based on valuations of similar operations in Mozambique and Zambia, would be worth around $4 million.

In her first meeting with “Charles”, Andrianarisoa spoke about her desire to support Madagascar’s development while also “earning my life”.

Prosecutors said Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau were both offered payments by “Charles” in rubies, to make it easier to hide the corrupt payments.

They were arrested in a London hotel last year and each charged with one count of bribery, after which Rajoelina sacked Andrianarisoa with immediate effect.

Tabuteau pleaded guilty last year, but Andrianarisoa pleaded not guilty and stood trial this month at Southwark Crown Court.

Andrianarisoa, who had worked for energy giant BP BP.L and Chinese state oil major CNOOC 0883.HK before becoming an adviser to Rajoelina, said in evidence that she wanted Gemfields to get a mining licence for the benefit of Madagascar.

“I never requested any payment for myself,” she told the jury.

But the jury convicted her on Tuesday and Andrianarisoa will be sentenced alongside Tabuteau, 54, next month.

Andy Kelly, head of the International Corruption Unit at the NCA, said the agency was “particularly grateful to Gemfields for not only bringing this matter to our attention, but also continuing to work with us throughout the investigation to bring about a successful result”.

Gallery

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  • Brian Cotter says:

    The operation of BEE Tenderpreneur middlemen is the same in South Africa for facilitating a deal.
    Energy giant BP BP_L and Chinese state oil major CNOOC 0883_HK being on the CV of the accused would apparently be the training ground for corrupt deals. Well done Gemfields. Lord Hain would be proud of you.

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