French billionaire Vincent Bollore, who last week stepped down as chairman of media giant Vivendi, was taken by police into custody on Tuesday for questioning as part of an investigation into allegations of corrupt business practices in Africa.
The head of the Bollore Group is being questioned in the Paris suburb of Nanterre about how the group obtained contracts to run ports in Togo and Guinea, which are both former French colonies, his company has confirmed. Police now have up to 48 hours to investigate Bollore and decide whether he will stand trial.
News that the magnate whose group holds a majority stake in Vivendi, which in turn owns Universal Music Group and the Canal+ Group, caused shares in his Bollore Group holding company to tumble more than 8%, while Vivendi shares dropped around 1%.
In a statement Bollore Group has denied any illegal actions in its African operations.
Bollore, 66, who is known as a corporate raider and has a net worth of $7.3 billion, according to Forbes, took over his family business in 1981 and turned it from a paper manufacturer into an $14.8 billion global construction, media and transport giant whose business activities include running ports in West and Central Africa.
Last week, Bollore handed over the reins at Vivendi — the French media company where he’d been chairman since 2014 and which Bollore Group controls with a 20.5 percent stake — to his son Yannick Bollore.
It is not known if his decision to step down from Vivendi was related to the investigation.
Also last week, Vivendi chief executive officer Arnaud de Puyfontaine said they had begun work on a “potential listing” of Universal Music Group, which is its largest asset.
Reports of the investigation started started surfacing two weeks ago. The probe according to French daily Le Monde involves two separate cases, one in Togo and the other in Guinea. The French judges are reportedly looking into whether payments were made towards the electoral campaigns of African politicians who once in office granted port concessions to Bollore’s group.