Vincent Bollore, one of the 10 great fortunes of France, CEO of the Bollore Group and pillar of Françafrique, is under examination this April 25 for “bribery of foreign public official”, “complicity of breach of trust” and “false and use of fake” in Guinea and Togo.
Indeed, the businessman is accused of helping to elect Presidents Alpha Condé (Guinea) and Faure Gnassingbe (Togo) who remain in power. In return, these West African leaders have allocated lucrative port markets to the powerful businessman in dubious conditions. This is what we call, among others, Françafrique. Knowing that in France, sentences cannot be cumulated Vincent Bollore big risk for each of the counts
Bollore: at the heart of a deal in Conakry and Lomé
After confiscating the power of force following the death of his father, before being elected in April 2005, after a controversial vote, Faure Gnassingbe applied for a second term in 2010. An election whose victory was uncertain for him, given his governance during his first term. It was then that Bollore, pillar of Françafrique, appeared alongside Faure Gnassingbe. The French businessman sends to Lomé a team of Havas, his communication agency, the 6th most powerful in the world and number 1 in France.
Havas supports a large part of Faure Gnassingbe’s communication campaign. The latter managed to be re-elected in March 2010. The bill that should pay the Togolese Presidency in Havas for this benefit is 800,000 euros. But it will be divided by two, or 400,000 euros. But in truth, it is 100,000 euros that will be paid by the Togolese Presidency in Havas. Then Bollore in person then decides to pay from his own pocket the remaining 300,000 euros through one of its subsidiaries.
Bollore, who is not a philanthropist, knows how to recover his bet and even more. Knowing that since 2001, the Bollore Group was already operating in the port of Lomé. According to Le Monde, a few months after the election of Faure, Bollore sent a letter to the Togolese presidency in which he expressed his wish to see the port of Lomé enlarged. At this request, the Togolese presidency gives a favourable opinion. A good lift back for the French businessman.
What about Guinea? Almost the same scenario. In 2010, at the end of the very eventful military transition, Guinea organized its first democratic election. Vincent Bollore sends Havas to Conakry to help his friend Alpha Conde who will be elected at the polls. A quarter later, as in Togo, the Bollore Group presents itself to the first democratically elected president of Guinea to speak business.
At the port of Conakry, another French company was already operating there. The latter will be kicked out. According to Le Monde, it is the French military who came to expel this French company. Then Alpha Condé announces by decree the new company that will regain control over the port of Conakry: the Bollore group will now be in charge of the container terminal. A close friend of the French billionaire speaks of “cowboy methods”.
Ruthless businessman, Bollore at connections with the French state regardless of the government in place and other policies. Alpha Conde does not hide his friendship with Vincent Bollore who is more than 40 years old. And for those who think that the friendship between Bollore and Alpha Conde may have influenced the transfer of the port of Conakry, the Guinean president replied: “I favour friends and It’s a friend (Bollore)… So, what?”. “Bollore fulfilled all the conditions of tender and I can tell you that no one wanted Getma [Necotrans] who did not honour his commitments,” said Alpha Condé quoted by AFP.
What risk Bollore has if he is convicted?
According to RTL for the charge of “foreign agent bribery”, he may be punished by 10 years in prison and a fine of €1 million, according to the website theJours, quoted by RTL. As for the charge of “breach of trust”, the businessman faces 3 years in prison and 375,000 euros fine and finally for the “forgery and false use”, Vincent Bollore in short, a penalty of 5 years in prison and 75,000 euros fine. In France, the penalties are not cumulative, unlike what is in force in other countries such as the United States. Vincent Bolloré knows how to watch his back and look after his relationship. He rubs with both left and right politics in France.
Connections with all the powers of the Elysee
Vincent Bollore has always had his entrances to the Elysee. As a result, the powers pass but Bollore remains. At the head of a family empire that he has always tried to develop, his father, the industrialist Michel Bollore, was a friend of former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. The son, Vincent Bollore, had to recruit some relatives of Jacques Chirac. Very close friend with Sarkozy, after his election in 2007, it is aboard the yacht of Vincent Bollore that Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated his victory causing a controversy in the French opinion.
Vincent Bollore is also a great friend of Jean Yves Le Drian, former Minister of Defence of Holland and current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Macron. Bollore is also a friend of Bernard Poignant, the former special adviser to François Hollande and his proximity to Emmanuel Macron is known. Bollore also supported Anne Hidalgo at the Paris City Hall. In the end, the secret of Vincent Bollore is to be friends with men of power who are however political opponents whether left or right.
Moreover, François Hollande, then president, had lobbied for Bollore to take over the port of Kribi in Cameroon. “One of its secrets is to work with everyone, to hate journalists, maybe, but to be friends with politicians. In fact, he is suspicious of the policies, but he knows that we must be close to everyone to succeed,” said journalist Nicolas Vescovacci who investigated the businessman with his colleague Jean-Pierre Canet.
At the heart of France-Africa, the Bollore Group is essential in business relations between France and Africa. “The Bollore Empire is a very strong power and Africa is very important. He is someone who has a very strong activity. So inevitably for the political power whatever its colour. We cannot do without Bollore when we go to Africa,” said Jean-Pierre Canet. All in all, the Elysée is aware of the importance of this manufacturer to operate in Africa. “Mr. Bollore is very important, it’s not just the French embassies abroad. Mr. Bollore is a bit of France abroad, when one is political, one cannot do without this influence, this power”, confided Bernard Poignant to Nicolas Vescovacci.
The business sense of man
Vincent Bollore inherited an industrial group that he knew how to make fruit and diversify. “The Bollore Group, whose strategy is based on diversification, innovation and international development, occupies today strong positions in each of its activities gathered around three poles, Transport and Logistics, communication, electricity storage solutions,” according to the website bollore.com.
In the beginning, it was bible paper, import expert, logistics with Father Bollore. At the height of structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and the WB, Bollore took the opportunity to acquire many strategic railways of some countries, then also embarks on the port activity of most countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Bollore would control 50 to 60% of goods transiting through West Africa, 15 to 30% in East Africa. Indeed, Bollore has partnerships with Areva to transport Nigerian uranium, partnerships with mining companies and even with governments. It was Bollore who was responsible for evacuating the French from Côte d’Ivoire at the height of the post-electoral crisis with its armoured vehicles.
Media empire: armed arm of the Bollore Group
In France, Bollore is part of the caste of 10 billionaires who have control over the media. Pillar of France-Africa and great friend of Sarkozy, Vincent Bollore owns Canal + via Vivendi, Cnews, Direct8, D17, Direct Morning, Dailymotion. A perfect but illegal concentration, Bollore also owns the communication agency Havas, the 6th in the world. In a context where the media are everywhere in crisis, economically speaking, even if it does not necessarily report, owning a press group gives its owner the influence to protect his business, serve the interests of his clients, private partners, even influence the state.
In 2015, Bollore banned the publication of a documentary survey titled “A friend who wants you good” on the mutual credit the boss makes for tax evasion. Bollore is in a business relationship with Credit Mutuel. Nicolas Vescovacci and Jean-Pierre Canet who participated in this investigation have also conducted another investigation on Vincent Bollore in person, a book that was also not to his liking which he tried to prevent the publication yield in vain. “Almighty Vincent: the investigation that Bollore wanted to prevent”. In 2015, when Bollore bought Canal +, some programs such as Les Guignols de l’info, le Grand Journal, had to be cancelled.
With a strong presence on the African continent, most of the 3 billion euros in sales that the Bollore Group makes is derived from its operations in Africa. If suspicions weighed on the modus operandi of the powerful Breton businessman, it seemed difficult until now to prove them. But presumably French justice, which meticulously conducted its investigations, now has irrefutable evidence of bad practices of the businessman in Africa.
The irruption of Bollore blocks the railway Cotonou-Niamey
Ubiquitous in West Africa, the Bollore Group, through Bollore Africa Logistics, manages the storage and transport of goods. On its own, the group directly manages a dozen container terminals, including those in Conakry and Togo, subject to its indictment. Also, the group manages 16 container terminals via public-private partnerships as mentioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The Bollore Group has practically colonized all of sub-Saharan Africa in the field of railways. According to the British public radio, Bollore is the majority shareholder in 3 railway concessions on the continent: Sitarail (Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso), Camrail (Cameroon) and Benrail (Benin). Moreover, the sale of the Benin-Niger section posed some problems for years.
Since 2008, under the magisterium of President Boni Yayi, a tender for the construction and management of the 1,000 km railway stretch linking Cotonou to Niamey, launched jointly by Benin and Niger, has been won by the Petrolin company of the Beninese businessman, Samuel Dossou, in favour of Bollore, through Benin rail.
The file lands in justice and delays the realization of the project since all these years. In October 2017, the justice board on the record and decides in favour of Petrolin and debut Bollore. Until today it is the status quo. In the wake, presidents Patrice Talon and Mouhamadou Issoufou have considered, a few weeks ago, to cooperate with China for the implementation of the project.