Paradis Fiscaux et Judiciaires

Ivorian probe into cocoa, coffee

lundi 15 octobre 2007

Ivorian probe into cocoa, coffee

By James Copnall

BBC News, Abidjan

picture : Much of the best crops are in the rebel-held north

President Laurent Gbagbo has ordered an official inquiry into the cocoa and coffee sectors.
Ivory Coast owes its wealth in large part to the money it gains from their exports, and millions of Ivorians depend directly or indirectly on them.

But these sectors are notorious for corruption, and the local papers have highlighted a number of scandals in recent months.

The president’s opponents fear that this is a political move.

Mr Gbagbo has officially written to the state prosecutor, telling him to open a judicial enquiry into the shady financial world of the cocoa and café sectors.

In his letter, the President said he had been spurred to act by "the recurrent nature of the embezzlement accusations" and to "enlighten public opinion about these serious charges".

President Gbagbo said the prosecutor should take the necessary legal steps if he found wrong-doing.

In particular, the enquiry should look into the purchase of several companies by coffee and cocoa sector bodies, including a chocolate factory in America.

Opposition newspapers have been full of this story in recent weeks.

They have alleged that people within President Gbagbo’s entourage bought the factory, but never stumped up the $200m they owed, instead diverting the money to buy houses and luxury cars, or simply into their overseas bank accounts.

International bodies frequently criticize the lack of transparency in the cocoa and coffee sectors.

The NGO Global Witness released a report earlier this year which claimed that cocoa money had been used to finance both sides in Ivory Coast’s civil war.

Cocoa farmers have also accused regulatory bodies of corruption.

The enquiry should shed some light into these and other matters.

But already President Gbagbo’s political opponents are expressing their doubts.

One opposition politician told me an official enquiry was the best way to bury sensitive information.

The report would never be made public, he suggested, and any other attempts to examine the sector would be put on hold until the official enquiry was complete.

Coffee and cocoa matter hugely in Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer and a major player in coffee too.

Everyone accepts that the vast revenues generated are not always used as they should.

But it is rare indeed for accusations to be fully investigated, or result in prosecutions.

Will this inquiry be any different ?

Story from BBC NEWS

Published : 2007/10/15 14:11:45 GMT


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