Ex-Elf chief back in Togolese court

2012-09-20 08:57

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Lome - The ex-head of French oil giant Elf re-appeared before an investigating judge for more than six hours in the West African nation of Togo on Wednesday after being charged in connection with a fraud probe.

Loik Le Floch-Prigent, charged with being an accessory to fraud, entered the judge's chambers for the closed-door session at the Lome tribunal late in the afternoon along with his lawyer and without commenting.

His lawyer Rustico Lawson-Bankou spoke briefly when leaving, saying the case was likely to continue on Thursday.

"We explained the relationship that exists between the other co-defendants and what could be their role in this matter," he said. "We have been accused of accessory to fraud and we told them what we know."

The ex-Elf chief executive was charged by a Togolese judge on Monday following his lightning-fast extradition from Ivory Coast over the weekend.

As the procedure continues, he has been held in an office at the gendarmerie.

The probe involves a complaint from an Emirati businessman who alleges he was the victim of a $48m fraud. The purported victim, Abbas Al Yousef, claims Le Floch-Prigent was acting as his personal adviser at the time.

Advance fee fraud

The case centres on accusations that a network claimed to have access to $275m in a Togolese account left by former Ivorian military ruler Robert Guei, who was killed in 2002.

Al Yousef, who manages investments, including in the oil and gas industry, alleges $48m was embezzled from him in the affair.

Togo's former minister of territorial administration, Pascal Bodjona, has also been charged in the case, as has Togolese businessman Bertin Sow Agba.

Al Yousef claims he was the victim of an advance fee fraud involving Bodjona, and says the former minister's name and position were used to establish trust.

Le Floch-Prigent, currently an oil industry consultant who turns 69 this month, has already served jail terms in France for corruption which dated from his time as head of Elf from 1989 to 1993.

Several Elf senior managers were jailed after a corruption scandal that broke in the 1990s. The company was taken over by French oil giant Total in 2000.

Read more on:    ivory coast  |  togo  |  west africa
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