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Cablegate: Cote D'ivoire: Cocoa Sector Officials Arrested As

VZCZCXRO2623
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHAB #0403/01 1770851
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250851Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4327
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABIDJAN 000403

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EIND ETRD KCOR KJUS PGOV IV
SUBJECT: COTE D'IVOIRE: COCOA SECTOR OFFICIALS ARRESTED AS
PART OF ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN

1. (U) Summary: Twenty-three top officials of the
cocoa/coffee sector were indicted on June 13 on charges of
embezzlement, breach of trust, misuse of corporate assets,
fraud, and forgery. As of June 23, 12 of the 23 were under
arrest. Those arrested include close associates of the
ruling FPI party. The arrests are part of an anti-corruption
campaign that President Gbagbo promised last year and which
few expected would yield significant results. Speculation as
to whether the current campaign is motivated in part by
political factors is rife, but regardless of the motivation
the arrests represent the first concrete action taken by the
Gbagbo regime in many years to stem corruption. End Summary.

RESULTS OF A LONG AWAITED INQUIRY ANNOUNCED
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Cote d'Ivoire's chief prosecutor, Raymond Tchimou,
held a press conference June 13 to announce the results of a
months long investigation, conducted at the request of
President Gbagbo, into mismanagement of cocoa funds and
corruption in the cocoa sector. Tchimou named 23 individuals
whose activities were suspicious enough to warrant
indictment. The names were passed on to a senior
investigating judge (Doyen des Juges d'Instruction), whose
responsibility it is to interview each individual and
determine whether prosecution is warranted. Interviews of
the 23 began on June 17.

3. (U) The first arrests were carried out on June 18 when
Henri Kassi Amouzou, Chairman of the Development and
Promotion Fund of Coffee and Cocoa Producers, was taken into
custody along with Theophile Kouassi, Executive Secretary of
the Development and Promotion Fund of Coffee and Cocoa
Producers, and Obogui Rosine Amena, Financial Director of the
same organization. Lucien Tape Do, Chairman of the Coffee
and Cocoa Exchange, Kassi Kadio Tanoh, Director General of
the Exchange, and Viviane Mensah, Financial Director of the
Exchange, were arrested on June 19. On June 20, Angeline
Kili, Chairperson of the Cocoa Financial Regulatory Body, was
arrested along with Firmin Kouakou, Director General of the
Financial Regulatory Body, and Sophie Bolou Dago, Financial
Administrator of the Financial Regulatory Body. On June 23,
Lambert Toh Digbeu, former Financial Director of the
Development and Promotion Fund of Coffee and Cocoa Producers,
Saraka Koffi Souanga of private company SIMATP, and Alfred
Sokouri Gnako, Financial Director of the Loan Guarantee Fund
of Cocoa/Coffee Cooperatives, were also arrested. More
arrests could be made; no trial date(s) has been set for
those in custody.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND
---------------------

4. (U) In October 2007, President Gbagbo ordered an
investigation into the cocoa/coffee sector after allegations
of embezzlement surfaced publicly. Cocoa officials then
began to point fingers at each other in the media.
Investigations in Cote d'Ivoire and the U.S., including the
2003 purchase of the Fulton cocoa factory in New York from
Nestle by the Cocoa Financial Regulatory Body, revealed
irregularities in budgets, over billing, payment of
exorbitant salaries and benefits, conversion of loans into
subsidies, non-functioning of some firms acquired by the
cocoa regulatory bodies, and the non-payment of dividends.
Because a number of the officials involved had close ties to
powerful FPI figures, such as FPI President Affi N'Guessan,
there was skepticism about the government's willingness to
take action. The inclusion of Lucien Tapeh Do, a frequent
visitor to the Presidency, and that of Angeline Kili, one of
N'Guessan's proteges, among the arrestees is viewed as a
demonstration, however, of the government's seriousness in
this particular anti-corruption campaign.

5. (U) These arrests will not, however, resolve many of the
problems that are now inherent to the cocoa sector. In 2000,
the Government of Cote d'Ivoire began the liberalization of
the cocoa/coffee sector in order to end a guaranteed price
system controlled by the state-run cocoa marketing board,
Caistab, and replace Caistab with independent cocoa industry
regulatory bodies. However, the bad management of these
entities has recurrently caused disruptive strikes and
protests by farmers. Foreign donors have denounced the lack
of transparency and poor governance in the cocoa sector.
President Gbagbo established a reform commission in 2004 to
address these problems, but the commission's report,
submitted to the President in 2005, was never made public.
The fact that the government has now taken action to address
the mismanagement and corruption in the cocoa sector may,

ABIDJAN 00000403 002 OF 002


however, be a sign that they are prepared to make significant
changes.

6. (SBU) Comment. The embezzlement trial may pave the way for
long-delayed reform of the Ivorian cocoa sector and serve as
a deterrent to corruption. There is great speculation about
the political motivatY|NQwCqvQd Comment.
NESBITT

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