Madagascar: former chief of staff of President Andry Rajoelina convicted of corruption in London

After demanding bribes from a mining company and being trapped in London by investigators, Romy Andrianarisoa, former chief of staff to Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina, was sentenced by British justice to three and a half years in prison for corruption, Friday May 10

Madagascar: former chief of staff of President Andry Rajoelina convicted of corruption in London

After demanding bribes from a mining company and being trapped in London by investigators, Romy Andrianarisoa, former chief of staff to Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina, was sentenced by British justice to three and a half years in prison for corruption, Friday May 10.

Aged 47, she was arrested in August in London with a Frenchman, Philippe Tabuteau, described as her “associate”, following an investigation by the British crime-fighting agency, National Crime Agency (NCA). She was found guilty of corruption in February by a British court for demanding bribes for the award of operating licenses to the British mining group Gemfields.

After her arrest, she was relieved of her duties by the Malagasy presidency. Contacted by Agence France-Presse after the judgment, the presidency did not wish to comment.

Recordings revealed

On Friday, following her conviction, the NCA released six recordings of Andrianarisoa, where she is heard negotiating bribes and boasting about the influence she has over her "boss", President Rajoelina. The affair broke out less than three months before the presidential election in the Indian Ocean island. Andry Rajoelina has since been inaugurated for a second term, after his re-election in the first round of a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Romy Andrianarisoa, who had pleaded not guilty, played a "leading role" in this case and "abused" a position of "trust and responsibility", Judge Christopher Butcher said during the sentencing. the punishment. His accomplice, Philippe Tabuteau, was sentenced to twenty-seven months in prison.

Both had tried to obtain a bribe from the Gemfields group, which has owned the Oriental Mining company in Madagascar since 2008. The group raised their concerns with British authorities, leading to the arrest of the two suspects in August in London's Victoria district during a meeting. The British agency then specified that they were “suspected of having attempted to solicit” sums totaling 250,000 Swiss francs (260,000 euros) “and a 5% equity stake”.

Shell company

The judge explained Friday that it was impossible to determine the exact amount involved, but he said it would have been “substantial.” The NCA agency carried out a “secret” investigation after the Gemfields group alert, with an undercover agent in the negotiations recording discussions.

During a meeting at the end of June 2023, Romy Andrianarisoa negotiates the amount of the bribe: “What I read in the contract was 10 for both of us, and what I said when I met you , it was 10 for each, for Philippe and for me,” she says. In another recording, a few minutes before her arrest, she speaks of a Swiss company, her “front company for years”. This is where she expected to receive the negotiated funds.

Madagascar is ranked 142nd out of 180 in Transparency International's corruption perception ranking. “The thing that concerns us is that if this case had taken place in Madagascar, (…) even if the people were caught in the act, it would go by the wayside, as usual, given the ineffectiveness of the Malagasy justice, the multiple interventions on both sides, etc. “, Ketakandriana Rafitoson, executive director of Transparency International Initiative Madagascar, told AFP.