PARIS (AP) — One of France’s most powerful businessmen, Vincent Bollore, was detained for questioning Tuesday in an investigation into alleged corruption during lucrative port deals in Africa.
His company’s shares plunged about 8 percent on the unexpected detention. The Bollore Group has vast holdings from transport to media and the oil business.
Bollore was taken into custody Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, along with other employees of his Bollore Group, according to a judicial official. The official did not provide further details and was not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation.
Bollore Group and Bollore’s lawyers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
French newspaper Le Monde says the investigation focuses on suspicions around port deals in 2010 in Lome, the capital of the West African nation of Togo, and Conakry in Guinea.
The report says Bollore Group is suspected of using communications subsidiary Havas to provide cut-rate services to African leaders, who then ensured that another subsidiary, Bollore Africa Logistics, would win shipping terminal contracts.
Rivals for the port contracts started legal action, according to French media reports.
Le Monde quoted Guinean President Alpha Conde as saying in 2016: “Bollore fulfilled all the conditions of the bids. He’s a friend, I favor friends. So what?”
Bollore’s lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, was quoted as saying that it was Bollore Group’s experience and 2 billion euros in investment in Africa in recent years that allowed it to win the port contracts.
Bollore-related companies have faced other legal cases in the past.
The tycoon is involved in many high-profile projects in France, such as the shared electric Autolib cars on the streets of Paris.
He is notably known for hosting friend Nicolas Sarkozy on his yacht days after Sarkozy was elected French president in 2007, raising concerns that Bollore would gain political favors in return.