(Adds details, background, former Guinea transport minister)
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, April 27 (Reuters) - Guinea will collaborate with the French authorities in their investigation of tycoon Vincent Bollore’s Africa operations, its justice minister told Reuters on Friday.
Bollore is under formal investigation over allegations that his company Groupe Bollore undercharged for work on behalf of presidential candidates in Guinea and Togo in return for port contracts.
“We will of course collaborate with French justice, but that’s all I can say for now,” Justice Minister Cheick Sako told Reuters by telephone.
Groupe Bollore announced the decision by Judge Serge Tournaire, which came after Bollore had been questioned for two days by French fraud police.
“We will need to hear more information before making any further decisions,” Sako added.
Bollore’s lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, has denied any wrongdoing by Bollore.
Groupe Bollore, which denies any wrongdoing, has confirmed that its African business interests were being investigated over the billing of work by its communications business Havas Worldwide in Guinea and Togo between 2009 and 2010.
The allegation in Guinea centres on a concession to manage and expand the container terminal in the capital Conakry.
France’s Getma International won the contract in a 2008 tender, beating rivals including Bollore.
Guinean President Alpha Conde took power in 2010 and then cancelled the agreement with Getma in March of the following year. In the same month, Bollore took over the concession.
Addressing journalists on Thursday, Guinea’s former transport minister Alpha Ibrahima Keira reiterated the government position that Bollore’s concession to manage the container terminal in Conakry was the result of a legal tender.
“This had absolutely nothing to do with Havas’ consultancy during the 2010 presidential campaign,” he said. “The president was not involved in the bidding process, which took place before he came to power.” (Reporting by Saliou Samb Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Jane Merriman and Alexander Smith)