Ex-Comoros president charged in passport sale scandal

2018-08-21 20:17


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Former Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has been detained and charged in connection with misappropriating funds linked to a vast passport selling scam, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

A magistrate charged Sambi, in power between 2006 and 2011, with "corruption, misappropriation of public funds and complicity in forgery", and ordered his house arrest following a hearing on Monday.

The scandal dates back to 2008 when Comoros launched a programme, in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to give citizenship to stateless individuals from the Gulf known as bidoons.

In return, Comoros - an archipelago between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world's poorest countries - was expected to receive significant investment from the oil-rich nations.

The initial deal agreed that 4 000 bidoon families would become naturalised Comorians in return for $200m to be used for major infrastructure projects.

Over the following years, almost 48 000 passports were issued under the programme, according to data collected by the parliamentary inquiry -- but just a handful were issued to bidoons.

Sambi, a prominent opponent of President Azali Assoumani and leader of the opposition Juwa party, has been held under house arrest for four months accused of fomenting unrest.

 'Outside legal channels' 

A parliamentary report compiled in December and seen by AFP accused Sambi, as well as Ikililou Dhoinine who ruled from 2011 to 2016, of involvement in systematic fraud and called for criminal action against the pair.

More than 6 000 passports were sold "outside the legal channels" for between $28 000 and $231 000, most of which was stolen, according to the parliamentary probe.

The state is thought to have missed out on as much as $971m, the report said, roughly the equivalent of 80% of the country's gross domestic product.

Both Sambi, 60, and Dhoinine denied wrongdoing when they appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the allegations.

Sambi's retinue of bodyguards has been dismissed and his television and phone confiscated, according to his lawyer.

The court's move to charge Sambi threatens to inflame tensions on the politically divided Indian Ocean archipelago.

He was a prominent opponent of Assoumani's constitutional reforms which were adopted following a July 30 referendum - boycotted by the opposition - in which 92.43% of those who did vote supported the changes.

The new laws, which will allow Assoumani to stand for another term, have been attacked by opposition leaders as a power-grab.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Read more on:    comoros  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.