Bollore's Belgian friend in court

Fabri is a director of the Bolloré group, whose AGM was met by civil society activists on 1 June 2018
West Africa Newsletter | 6 June 2018

Bollore's Belgian friend in court

The Socfin boss is suspected of setting up a system of kickbacks from which several senior officials in Conakry have benefited. The story so far.

This is publicity which the businessman Vincent Bollore, who is already under formal investigation in France, could have done without. Hubert Fabri Maria, the owner of the Liechtenstein-registered firm Socfin Sabang Anstalt in which the French magnate holds a 38.7% stake, appeared before the Brussels Correctional Court on 23 May, charged along with six other defendants in a case involving kickbacks allegedly paid to senior officials in Guinea, where his company runs a number of rubber plantations.

According to the Belgian tax authorities, the beneficiaries of these ‘generous arrangements' include the minister of agriculture, Mariama Camara, who for thirty years was at the helm of Soguipah (Societe guineenne des palmiers a huile et de l'hevea). She was absent from the court hearing, despite a European warrant for her arrest being issued in 2013, and was represented by her lawyer.

The hearings continued until 26 May, and the defendants denied having committed any criminal offence. However, the Cellule de traitement des informations financieres (CTIF), Belgium's anti-corruption authority, has uncovered the existence of a firm called West African Trading (WAT) through which the money was reportedly channelled. According to the Belgian state prosecutor Yves Moiny, WAT handled €3.8 million in kickbacks between 2004 and 2009, part of which was allegedly paid to the Guinean minister. With Socfin in the firing line of several non-governmental organisations, this latest legal twist was the subject of much discussion at the company's annual general meeting, which was held on 30 May at the Parc Belair hotel in Luxembourg.

This trial comes close on the heels of Vincent Bollore being placed under formal investigation in France for ‘bribing foreign state officials', ‘breach of trust' and ‘forging documents'. The businessman stands accused of providing ‘services' to several African presidents in exchange for port contracts.
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