Guinean group files graft lawsuit in France against Conde

·2 min read

Paris (AFP) - A group of Guinean dissidents said they had filed a lawsuit in France on Tuesday, accusing President Alpha Conde and others of corruption, money laundering and influence-peddling.

The complaint was filed with the French national financial prosecutor, Jean-Baptiste Soufron, a lawyer for the Collective for Change in Guinea (CTG), told a press conference.

The announcement was made amid speculation that Conde this week will be named a candidate in upcoming elections -- a scenario that has sparked fierce protests in the West African country.

Soufron said the lawsuit "targets a range of activities which have taken place since 2012-13, partly in Paris and partly in Guinea, and which support concerns about corruption benefitting Alpha Conde, his son Mohamed Conde, but also Defence Minister Mohamed Diane."

The complaint focusses on a concession to exploit rich bauxite reserves in Boke, western Guinea, CTG said.

The concession was first awarded to a French company called ARM, set up in 2015, which then sold the rights to a French-Chinese-Singaporean consortium for 171 million euros ($201 million), according to the CTG.

The Guinean government did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment, although a source close to the presidency said the lawsuit was "provocation... (and) pure slander."

"Every time an important date comes up, we are targeted for blackmail," the source said.

The CTG's spokesman, Ibrahim Sorel Keita, said: "This is the best time to hope that people will wake up and learn about the realities of the financial activities of this regime."

- Running again? -

The former French colony is rich in minerals, but suffers from entrenched poverty and a history of instability.

Conde, 82, was a decades-long opponent of previous leaders who kept an iron grip on Guinea after it gained independence in 1958.

He was first elected in 2010 and voted back into office five years later, although critics say his rule has now veered towards authoritarianism.

Last October, bloody protests erupted over suspicions that Conde wanted to sidestep a two-term limit by pushing through constitutional changes enabling him to reset his time in office.

The changes were approved in a referendum in March by 91.59 percent of those voting, in a turnout of 61 percent, according to official figures.

Conde has been coy about whether he intends to run again, but the uncertainty may end this week when the ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) holds a convention on Wednesday and Thursday to choose its election champion.

The electoral commission has proposed that the presidential poll be held on October 18, but Conde has yet to issue a decree to confirm a date.