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Africa

Djibouti businessman Abourahman Boreh cleared of corruption charges by London court

media Boreh's assets were frozen in September 2013 and he was arrested in Dubai. Youtube

An English court dismissed charges against prominent Djibouti businessman Abourahman Boreh in a ruling on Wednesday. The long-running case brought by Djibouti’s government included allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption related to the redevelopment of the country’s port facilities. Boreh had previously been a close friend and associate of Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

“It’s really a huge, huge success, I’m very, very pleased,” Boreh told RFI after the verdict. “I have been cleared of all those accusations, which are more than 23 different claims,” he added.

The dual Djiboutian-French national had been one of the drivers behind the redevelopment of Djibouti’s port, construction of an oil storage facility and container terminal. Boreh helped secure investment from Dubai and was named head of the Djibouti’s port authority.

However, Boreh says he fell foul of the government when the president began demanding his share of the profits as well as his refusal to back Guelleh’s proposal to amend the country’s constitution to enable him to remain in office.

Djibouti and its port have considerable economic value given its location at the crossroads of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. It is also of significant strategic interest to the world’s powerful militaries with the US and French both having a base in Djibouti and China having recently begun construction on an overseas base.

“We built the foundation of what made Djibouti today a strategic country,” Boreh said in a telephone interview from London. “But as time went by and he [Guelleh] wanted to change the constitution - I gave my independent opinion that it was not good to do it – and then I became a threat to him.”

In their pursuit of Boreh, Djibouti’s government succeed in having his assets frozen and sentenced him in absentia to 15 years in prison on charges of terrorism.

The London high court had already overturned the freezing of Boreh’s assets which had been linked to a “false terrorism conviction” and was part of a “concerted campaign against Mr Boreh”, Justice Julian Flaux said in his ruling.

Djibouti’s government had mounted a claim of about 130 million dollars in damages against Boreh, accusing him of having abused his position as an advisor to the president and accepting bribes from Dubai Ports World, the manager of Djibouti’s port.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Djibouti’s government were fingered in having misled the court because they knew that the evidence for terrorism did not support the conviction. Lord Charles Falconer, the UK’s shadow justice secretary, led the Djiboutian government’s case on behalf of law firm Gibson Dunn after Boreh’s assets were unfrozen.

“Lord Falconer, being the shadow justice minister, makes fantastic speeches on human rights, against corruption,” said Boreh. “And then he represented Djibouti which is a corrupt country,” he added.

“This victory is not only for me, but for all Djiboutians who don’t have justice in their country,” said Boreh.

Djibouti's government said it was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling and disagrees with the court's findings. "The Republic of Djibouti is exploring urgently with its lawyers the best course of action to take, including the possibility of an appeal," according to a statement seen by RFI.

 
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