In Madagascar, a warning shot for the litchi sector, 10 days before the start of the harvest campaign, Transparency International and its Malagasy section have just taken legal action, simultaneously in France and Madagascar, after three years of investigation.
With our correspondent in Antananarivo, Sarah Tetaud
The NGO Transparency International strongly suspects companies and individuals involved in the lychee trade of resorting to transnational corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, thus weakening an already bloodless sector, to the detriment of tens of thousands of seasonal farmers and workers. Transparency International Initiative Madagascar handed over to the anti-corruption center of Antananarivo on Thursday a series of documents, detailed evidence, the fruit of a long investigation, to encourage the authorities to open an investigation into possible criminal acts in the sector.
” We have discovered a sort of transnational litchi network which notably involves Madagascar, France – which is above all the country of destination in the European Union, passing through Mauritius – where a Litchi Trading Company, LTC is based explains Ketakandriana Rafitoson, the association’s executive director.
Actual beneficiaries and profits unknown to the public
And it is the Lychee Exporters Group (GEL), a private association which currently brings together twenty-six Malagasy exporters and to which the government has entrusted since 2011 the responsibility of managing the litchi export campaigns, which created this company. opaque LTC in 2017. Its real beneficiaries and its profits are, for example, unknown to the public despite its key role in the sector.
” And so the LTC acts as the intermediary between the GEL and the lychee importers based in France. It buys back all of GEL’s production and resells it to two French companies which have been selected directly by GEL, without a call for tenders. “says Ketakandriana Rafitoson.
A report also made in Paris
Today, these two French companies enjoy exclusive rights to import Madagascan litchis. An astonishing situation which prompted the NGO to file, at the same time, Thursday, a report with the national financial prosecutor’s office in Paris. ” Corruption is suspected behind the granting of these exclusive rights “.
” Our investigation enabled us to understand that the Malagasy party demanded payments from these European importers, in the form of a contribution, explains Frédéric Lesné, advocacy advisor within the Malagasy association fighting for transparency. However, we do not understand the meaning of these payments and we fear that these payments are corruption. In the same way, we do not understand the logic of the creation of this LTC, if not to carry out money laundering and tax evasion. That’s what worries us. »
Mafia activities, if they are proven, which the authorities would do well to tackle if they wish to clean up a sector in decline and allow better economic benefits for Madagascar and for its small producers.