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Ivory Coast charges French over missing scribe

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-11-16

Authorities in Ivory Coast on Friday called for four French consultants to be charged over the 2004 disappearance of Canadian journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, believed to have been killed while researching a story on corruption.

AFP - Authorities in Ivory Coast on Friday called for four French consultants to be charged over the 2004 disappearance of a Canadian journalist in Abidjan.

Public prosecutor Raymond Tchimou alleged that missing journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, who disappeared in April 2004 while researching a story on corruption in Ivory Coast's cocoa industry, received threats from the four with whom he worked as a consultant.

Two of the French consultants, who headed the Commodities Corporate Consulting (CCC), made death threats against Kieffer, Tchimou said at a news conference.

The journalist had allegedly been involved in blackmail and was preparing "to reveal a money laundering network" implicating CCC, he added.

On this basis, Tchimou said, the charging of the four French consultants either as those directly responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Kieffer or as accomplices, was "essential" if the truth of the case was to be uncovered.

This was the message that the authorities had given to judge Patrick Ramael, in charge of an inquiry in France into the disappearence, he said. Two Ivory Coast judges involved in the case had visited Paris in June.

One of the four Frenchmen meanwhile denied that he was implicated in the case.

"I want to stress ... that I have absolutely nothing to do with Guy-Andre Kieffer's disappearance," Jean-Michel Aron-Brunetiere told Radio France Internationale (RFI), adding that he had never threatened the journalist.

The other three men were identified as Eric Latham, Stephane de Vaucelles and Robert Dulas.

Prosecutor Tchimou also denied that he had been contacted by the French judge with a summons for the wife of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to present herself for questioning in Paris on Thursday.

A source close to the case told AFP that Simone Gbagbo had ignored the summons, and her lawyer earlier denied that she had received them.

Kieffer's body has never been found but French investigators believe he was abducted and murdered on the orders of powerful business interests.

His unresolved disappearance remains a sore point in the relations between France and its former colony Ivory Coast, which was sliced in half after a failed 2002 rebellion against President Gbagbo.

Investigators say they do not suspect the presidential couple are directly involved in the case but are focusing on other officials in Gbagbo's regime, especially those linked to the powerful cocoa industry.

The Ivory Coast produces some 40 percent of the world's cocoa and some six million people are employed in the industry.

Date created : 2008-07-12