Paris (AFP) – Billionaire French tycoon Vincent Bollore was detained Tuesday near Paris on suspicion of corruption over his group’s acquisition of rights to operate ports in West Africa, legal sources told AFP.
The 66-year-old head of the Bollore Group, was taken into custody as part of an investigation into how the group obtained contracts to operate Lome port in Togo and Conakry port in Guinea, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
Investigators are probing allegations that Bollore Group, which has interests in construction, logistics, media, advertising and shipping, corrupted African leaders to clinch the deals.
In a statement the group said it “formally denied” any wrongdoing in its African operations.
Investigators suspect Bollore Group’s communications subsidiary Havas of working for Guinean President Alpha Conde and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe in the hope of receiving the container port contracts in return.
After his election, Conde terminated the contract of Conakry port’s existing operator and gave it to the Bollore Group.
News of Vincent Bollore’s arrest caused the group’s stocks to fall over 4 percent to 4.26 euros in mid-morning Paris trading.
In 2016, French police searched the group’s headquarters in the Paris suburb of Puteaux.