News24

Yayi accused of role in Ponzi scheme

2010-08-20 09:14

Cotonou - A group of lawmakers in Benin wants President Boni Yayi impeached over his suspected involvement in a Ponzi scheme that has swindled thousands of people of their savings in the impoverished West African nation.

The scandal threatens to upset one of the region's most stable countries, a sliver of land between Nigeria and Togo with nearly 9 million people. It has already triggered widespread protests and the sacking of a government minister.

At least 50 of 83 members of Benin's parliament have signed a letter requesting Yayi submit himself to trial for treason and perjury, saying they suspected his involvement with ICC Services, a company accused of running the scheme.

The presidency declined to comment. Yayi's spokesperson had previously denied the president's involvement in the case.

The move by members of parliament marks an escalation after at least 100 000 people took to the streets last month to demand the government help them reclaim their money.

ICC Services officials have been put under house arrest and were not available for comment.

The company is accused of stealing some $196m in deposits this year after promising returns of between 20% and 50%.

The letter, seen by Reuters on Thursday and due to be presented to Yayi on Friday, says Yayi hosted ICC officials at the presidential palace on two occasions, and "allowed the company to pursue illegal activity on the territory of Benin".

ICC had invited people to make deposits into accounts it said bore interest rates of up to 50%. Depositors in the country, where most people live on around $2 a day, later found out they could not withdraw.

Yayi sacked his interior minister in July, saying he was directly involved in the affair. He had been earlier tasked with heading a team to address the scandal.