Maixent Accrombessi, who is very close to the Gabonese leader, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was detained at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport last Monday “for corruption of a foreign public official.” The move has been sharply condemned by Gabon before the French police released him after finding out that he had diplomatic immunity.
Accrombessi, originally from Benin, is seen as one of the most influential and controversial politicians in the country.
Critics accuse him of using voodoo against opponents and in April they set fire to the Benin embassy to show their anger at the death of a senior opposition leader Andre Mba Obame.
In France, Accrombessi is suspected of accepting a bribe from Marck, a French firm that makes military uniforms, in connection with Gabon’s award of a contract to Marck at the end of 2005.
For the man suspected of bribing Accrombessi, Marck chairman Philippe Belin, prosecutors have gone a step further by formally placing him under investigation, a juridical source told AFP News.
Gabon’s presidency had said Accrombessi’s detention was “linked to an affair that has nothing to do with his capacities as chief of staff” and that it had been meant “to humiliate him and his public function”.
Accrombessi is hugely influential in Gabon, having worked with Bongo when he was defense minister, and again when he became president.