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Former CoS- Madagascan President convicted of bribery; tries to solicit a bribe from Gemfields

The former Chief of Staff to the President of Madagascar has been found guilty of bribery following a fast-paced covert investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Romy Andrianarisoa, 47, from Madagascar, and her associate French national Philippe Tabuteau, 54, were charged in August 2023 after requesting substantial sums of money in exchange for their help securing an exclusive mining joint venture with the Government of Madagascar. Tabuteau pleaded guilty in September 2023.

The pair attempted to solicit a bribe from Gemfields, a UK-based company that specialises in the responsible mining of rubies and emeralds, and prides itself on its projects to improve the health, education and livelihoods of those living in communities around their mines.

Andrianarisoa approached Gemfields via an introductory agent before organising several in-person conversations to discuss potential contracts. At the time of the 2023 meetings, she was Chief of Staff to President Rajoelina of Madagascar and made it clear that she had a direct line to, and significant influence with, the country’s leadership. Tabuteau assisted with the negotiations, describing himself as having no formal role in Government, but working for them “in a private and personal capacity”.

Shortly after her appointment as Chief of Staff, Andrianarisoa introduced Tabuteau as her "colleague", noting that he would be helping to take matters forward. In March 2023, Tabuteau arranged a face-to-face meeting with a Gemfields team member in which he requested a fee for his services in return for “delivering milestones”. He stressed the steps taken by both himself and Andrianarisoa to ensure their actions were kept secret, that they would never speak on the telephone or by email and would conduct conversation face-to-face or over WhatsApp alone.

Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau requested 10,000 Swiss Francs each by way of a part payment, in addition to two instalments of 125,000 Swiss Francs for the delivery of an “invitation to initiate the collaboration” from President Rajoelina, and the Government’s signature of the key terms relating to the joint venture. They were also trying to secure a 5% equity stake in the collaboration, which, given the nature of the business, could total circa £k million.

Suspicious of the pair’s intentions, Gemfields reported concerns about corruption to the NCA, who launched an investigation which made use of surveillance and other covert tactics.

In meetings and conversations held over the following four months, Andrianarisoa described the need for substantial payment to ensure the ongoing success of the project, even in the event of a change of President, and emphasised the amount the pair were to receive for goodwill on the signature of the contract — “Ten [thousand USD] for both of us [...] ten per capita for Philippe and myself”.

On 10 August 2023, the duo was arrested by NCA officers at a hotel in Victoria, London.

Andrianarisoa was found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court on 20 February 2024. Sentencing is scheduled for 18 March 2024.Andy Kelly, Head of the International Corruption Unit at the NCA, said:“This investigation demonstrates the ability of the ICU to capitalise on cooperation from industry, and the determination of our officers to brinp to justice those who undermine the rule of law.We are particularly grateful to Gemfields for not only bringing this matter to our attention, but also continuing to work with us throughout the investigation to bring about a successful result.”

Thomas Short, a spec1alist fraud prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service, said:“Ronny Andrianarisoa is a corrupt official who chose to enrich herself in the course of her public duties.“The CPS provided legal advice to the NCA throughout the investigation and prosecution to put together the strongest case in court.“By reporting the pair to the authorities Gemfields have protected their business and those of others from greedy and unscrupulous individuals.”

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