The narrow Number 9 Courtyard at Southwark Magistrates’ Court in south London was not intended for the small crowd that turned up on Friday September 8. A good twenty Malagasy opponents, most of them from France, managed to squeeze into the benches reserved for the public, but others were forced to stay outside for lack of space. Two months before the presidential election in Madagascar, scheduled for November 9 and December 20, they came to attend the preliminary hearing of what promises to be an explosive trial.
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In the dock, behind a glass wall, sit two people who have the power to directly splatter President Andry Rajoelina, candidate for a second term: Romy Voos Andrianarisoa, who was until very recently his chief of staff, and Philippe Tabuteau , a French consultant. The courts accuse them of having asked a British mining company, Gemfields, for bribes of 250,000 Swiss francs (261,000 euros) and a 5% stake in a mining operation that it wanted to develop in Madagascar. Both suspects are currently in custody in London.
Standing very straight, short hair and white long-sleeved T-shirt, Ms. Andrianarisoa announced in her defense, in a very firm voice, that she pleaded “not guilty. » Mr. Tabuteau, dark suit and slightly hunched shoulders, did not speak. His lawyer asked for – and received – an additional week and will announce whether or not he pleads guilty on Friday September 15.
Requests for payments in cash, gold or precious stones
The arrest of Ms. Andrianarisoa and Mr. Tabuteau took place as part of a flagrant offense in London on August 10. During a previous court hearing, the prosecutor, Rosalind Earis, presented the facts. According to her, the Malagasy had established initial contacts with Gemfields before the Covid-19 pandemic. For many years, the British company has sought to develop mines on the Big Island. It has several concessions there, notably for sapphires and emeralds, but which are not yet active. “We had planned to begin preliminary explorations in 2020,” confirms Gemfields. The pandemic has pushed everything back.
In March 2023, Ms. Andrianarisoa, very close to the Head of State, resumed contact with the mining company. She explains to him that Mr. Tabuteau will serve as an intermediary to carry out the negotiations. On March 29, the latter met a representative of Gemfields for a first meeting. Still according to the accusation, he then mentions commissions to be paid, in exchange for poorly defined services. Suspicious, Gemfields asks him to put his requests in writing, which he does.
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