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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Cocoa officials arrested in corruption crackdown

Source: RFI

Police in Côte d’Ivoire have arrested top officials of the Coffee and Cocoa Bourse (BCC), in a widening crackdown on fraud in the cocoa sector. Director Lucien Tape Doh and Tanoh Kassi, its managing director, were among those detained Thursday, say police officials. Print the articleSend the articleComments on article Henri Kassi Amouzou and Théophile Kouassi, two high-ranking officials of the FDPCC development fund for cocoa and coffee farmers, were also picked up Wednesday. The men are part of a list of 23 people charged with financial corruption by Côte d’Ivoire prosecutors. President Laurent Gbagbo ordered the probe in October 2007, after allegations of the embezzlement of more than 152 million euros, put aside to help develop the sector. One of the people on the list is Angeline Kili of the cocoa and coffee marketing cooperative FRC, which has been accused of fraud following a transaction to buy a chocolate factory in Fulton in the United States. Gbagbo ordered the probe into corruption at the cocoa institutions in October 2007.

The investigation seemed to be put on hold as Côte d’Ivoire struggled to recover from the crisis that followed the 2002 coup bid, which split the country in half, but is now back in full swing. Several opposition newspapers have denounced the move as an attempt by Gbagbo to increase his popularity ahead of elections at the end of November. Although the president has not officially announced that he is a candidate for another term, his party is already campaigning for him. “Thursday evening in Abijan, the question was ‘Who’s next?’,” reports RFI’s Norbert Navarro in the Ivorian capital. “Because the hearings should continue and, if the list is complete, there are 18 more accused are due to appear in court.” Ivory Coast, which holds some 40 per cent of the world market in cocoa, provides a livelihood for some six million people in Cote d’Ivoire, making up 20 per cent Gross Domestic Product


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