Former Elf chief charged in Togo fraud case

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 18, 2012 11:14 AM
Former Elf chief charged in Togo fraud case

LOME (Reuters) - The former head of French oil company Elf, Loik Le Floch-Prigent, has been charged in Togo over his alleged role in defrauding an Emirati businessman of $48 million, the accused man's lawyer said on Tuesday.

Authorities in Ivory Coast arrested Le Floch-Prigent over the weekend and extradited him to Togo, where he appeared in court on Monday.

"He has been charged with complicity in fraud by the investigating magistrate," his lawyer Rustico Lawson-Banku told Reuters.

"My client has made his first appearance (in court) and has agreed to explain himself," he said, adding that the hearing was likely to continue later on Tuesday.

Le Floch-Prigent is accused, along with a Togolese government minister and a third suspect, of involvement in a scam targeting Emirati businessman Abbas El Youssef.

With Le Floch-Prigent serving as an adviser to El Youssef, the three men allegedly said they had access to what they said was the 275 million euro ($360 million) fortune of Robert Guei, the deceased former military ruler of Ivory Coast.

Floch-Prigent, 68, was previously at the center of one of the biggest embezzlement scandals in French history.

He was CEO of Elf from 1989 to 1993 but was later convicted of stealing several hundred million dollars from the company. He was sentenced to prison terms totaling nearly 19 years but was released in 2005 after serving just 20 months.

Elf was absorbed by another French oil major, Total, in 2000.

(Reporting by John Zodzi; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Pravin Char)