Paris (AFP) - The Gabonese president's chief-of-staff was freed Tuesday after being briefly detained at a Paris airport on suspicion of corruption as he was about to fly back to Libreville.
Maixent Accrombessi, who is very close to Gabonese leader Ali Bongo Ondimba, was detained at Paris's main Charles de Gaulle airport "for corruption of a foreign public official", said a French judicial source, who wished to remain anonymous.
However, a few hours later, his lawyer Francis Szpiner told AFP: "He is leaving soon for Gabon and will continue to carry out his duties."
The arrest sparked fury in Gabon. A presidential statement "protested strongly" against the arrest which "violates the fundamental principles of international law."
The case in question has "nothing to do with his duties as chief-of-staff" and is an attempt to "humiliate" Accrombessi and "attack" Gabon, the statement said.
The arrest is part of a probe by Paris prosecutors into the 2006 awarding of a contract in Gabon to a French military uniforms manufacturer.
Accrombessi is hugely influential in Gabon, having worked with Bongo when he was defence minister, and again when he became president.
A legal source close to the case said that when he was arrested, he was not in possession of a document proving he was on an official mission in France.
"He therefore did not benefit from diplomatic immunity which would have prevented any measures against him," said the source.
However, a few hours later, Gabonese officials sent a certificate saying that Accrombessi was on an official mission.
"The French foreign office validated this letter and the prosecutors had to let him go," said this source.