Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigns amid financial scandal | News | DW | 17.03.2018
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Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigns amid financial scandal

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 nongovernmental 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 nongovernmental organization for personal purchases, including 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." She said she planned to clear her name and 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 to 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 L'Express, a local newspaper, chronicled Gurib-Fakim's purchase of a notebook computer in September 2016, clothes and jewelry in October, more jewels in November and luxury clothes in December.

Yet what stoked the public's ire even more than the purchases themselves has been Gurib-Fakim'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.

Read more: Mauritius turns 50

bik/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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