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French billionaire detained in Africa 'corruption' probe

French billionaire detained in Africa 'corruption' probe

French billionaire, Vincent Bollore, was on Tuesday, April 24, detained near Paris over alleged corruption in West Africa.

Bollore has a net worth of $7.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Prosecutors are looking at whether Bollore Group's communications arm, Havas, undercharged Guinean President Alpha Conde and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe for work on their campaigns as a sweetener for the contracts, Le Monde newspaper reported.

Three other managers were being held for questioning alongside Bollore, the judicial source said, naming them as Groupe Bollore chief executive Gilles Alix, head of the global division at advertising group Havas Jean-Philippe Dorent, and Francis Perez, the head of the Spain-based Pefaco company.

Bollore's company, Groupe Bollore BOLL.PA , announced the decision by Judge Serge Tournaire, which came after Bollore had been questioned for two days by French fraud police.

He sits at the head of a tentacular empire with revenues of 18.3 billion euros ($22.4 billion) in 2017 and interests in everything from construction and logistics to media, advertising and agriculture.

Groupe Bollore's Bollore Africa Logistics has a strong grip on port operations in West Africa, holding 16 container port concessions, as well as several rail concessions.

Bollore said in a statement that the investigation related to the billing of its communication services in both countries between 2009 and 2010.

The company is suspected of using communications and advertising subsidiary Havas to support African leaders who, it is claimed, then ensured that another subsidiary, Bollore Africa Logistics, would win shipping terminal contracts.

In 2016, police searched the Bollore Group's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Puteaux.

A French court in 2013 ordered the Bollore Group to pay Necotrans two million euros in compensation, but Bollore took over the company shortly afterwards.

Groupe Bollore has also denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation into Bollore's activities in Guinea and Togo raises questions over whether other contracts won in the region by his holding company are under scrutiny.

Although the company used the term indicted in its statement in English, the French term is usually translated as placed under formal investigation.

He revived its flagging fortunes after taking the helm in the early 1980s and embarked on a blitz of acquisitions, earning a reputation as a formidable businessman.

Bollore's legal woes add another challenge to his son Yannick, who the Vivendi board anointed as chairman after Bollore stepped down last week and who still heads Havas.

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