Corruption in Guinea?: French billionaire Vincent Bolloré threatened with trial

Having served two times in Conakry – Guinea for the Maersk Company, once to develop the port-stevedoring activities in the late 90’s and again as CEO of Maersk Guinee in 2007-2010 and not to forget Cotonou (Benin) and Onne (Nigeria) i consider myself as an authority on West-African Ports and its modus-operandi. It was late 2007 when we learned that our concession to the Conakry Container Terminal Services (CTS) which we jointly operated with Getma Guinee / AMA operated under a concession agreement till 2012 was under attack. Bollore Group made an unsolicited offer to the Guinea Government to take over CTS. The fast anticipation and initiative by the then Minister of Transport forced the Guinean Government to start a public tender process. Finally 3 offers where retained; Bollore, Necotrans and APM Terminals. At an audience with the (late) president Conte (not to be confused with current President Conde) in November 2008 i learned – not to my surprise – how it works. The secretary of the President explained the amounts and who would be the receivers. We obviously did not go along with these practices and lost the concession to Necotrans. Richard Talbot and Gamal Chaloub made it clear that now they had the concession and i should accept the situation. In order to protect the interests of Maersk we negotiated a stevedoring contract with Necotrans. President Conte died in December 2008 and the Military headed by Dadis Camara took power over Guinea. When i was approached by the Military (on my request they left their Kalashnikov’s outside my office) i only handed over a defense file allowing them to review the decision. Instead they boarded the first airplane to Paris and confronted Richard Talbot – Necotrans with their conditions for securing the concession. Necotrans maintained the concession. We were not surprised when in 2011, Bollore took over the concession. The hand-over process was simple; the Necotrans team was put manu-militari on the first Air France departure while the Bollore team was moving-in minutes later. Did Necotrans failed to meet the concession conditions – sure. Was the “standard” tender process followed ? No. The right process would have been to re-open the tender process and allow all parties again to make an offer for the concession. Will it now become clear as to why possibly the standard public tender process was not followed ? It seems that the French Justice is taking this serious. I dont know anything about what happened in Togo. I know (almost) everything what happened in Guinea – Conakry. Is it all bad news ? Not realy. While Necotrans clairly failed to have sufficient deep pockets to meet the concession conditions to invest in developing the infrastructure (extension of 300 meters quaywall and 110.000 square meters surface), Bollore has made these extensions and expansions. On the other hand we see a growing monopoly on the West-African ports where with few exceptions APM terminals and Bollore operate together 70% of the container terminal capacity on the West-African coast. With the non-authorised and prohibited share swap in the port of Monrovia (Liberia) with the port of Conakry (Guinea) between APM Terminals and Bollore they re-enforce their grip on the movements of goods in and out West-Africa. No surprise that container handling tariffs are approx. 3 times higher than in Europe – like the salaries of West-African Port Labor is 3 times better than the salaries of European Dockers ? With an average payback on investments of less than 5 years one can see why these ports are such attractive ventures. Yes, High risk equals High Yield and West-African countries are not exactly known for political stability so you better earn your money back fast. Question is whether it justifies practices which are post-colonial but no longer acceptable in the 21st century. The French justice will speak.

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