17 March 2018

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim Resigns Amid Financial Scandal

Photo: L'Express.mu
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (file photo).

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim announced her resignation Saturday amid an ongoing financial scandal. She is accused of purchasing personal luxury items with a credit card from a non-governmental organization.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Africa's only female head of state, offered her resignation in the "national interest," according to her lawyer Yousouf Mohamed. He added that her resignation would take effect on March 23.

Mohamed told local Radio Plus that she had decided to resign "to prevent a constitutional crisis."

"She doesn't want the country ... to suffer. In the country's best interests she has decided to leave," the lawyer said.

Gurib-Fakim is accused of using a bank card provided by a non-governmental organization for personal use, including the purchasing of jewelry and luxury items worth at least 25,000 euros ($30,000). She has vowed to fight the allegations.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said earlier this month that Gurib-Fakim, 58, had agreed to step down, with a date for her departure to be determined following last Monday's ceremony marking the Indian Ocean archipelago nation's 50 years of independence.

But on Wednesday the president issued a statement lashing out at "weeks of attacks and false allegations" and said she planned to clear her name and had vowed not to resign.

A newspaper investigation

The president's role is primarily ceremonial but Gurib-Fakim, who is a renowned scientist, joined the London-based Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in a supposed-attempt to try and develop scientific capacity in Africa.

In May 2016, she received a credit card to pay for travel and logistical expenses tied to her role but claims she inadvertently used it for unrelated expenses.

Gurib-Fakim maintains that she immediately realized her mistake, informed PEI of the transactions, reimbursed them for the purchases, as well as for all of her expenses related to her PEI mission.

The PEI confirmed this account, issuing a statement earlier this week saying that Gurib-Fakim "thus never received gifts, favors, wages or expenses from the PEI, nor undue benefits or advantage."

But an investigation by a local newspaper L'Express chronicled Gurib-Faksim's purchase of a notebook computer in September 2016, clothes and jewelry in October more jewels in November and luxury clothes in December.

But more than the purchases themselves public ire in Mauritius has been stoked by Gurib-Faksim's association with an Angolan billionaire named Alvaro Sobrinho, who is a founding member of the PEI, and is himself under investigation in Switzerland and Portugal on fraud charges.

Sobrinho won permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius in 2017, prompting allegations of favoritism on his behalf.

Facing pressure from the opposition, Gurib-Fakim resigned shortly afterward from her role at the PEI.

bik/rc (AFP, Reuters)


World Must Not Forget Chibok, Dapchi Girls' Parents - Ex-Mauritius President

Former President of Mauritius, Prof. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, on Thursday urged the world not to forget the parents of the… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2018 Deutsche Welle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.