Oil firm Benchmark Group said this week it had been approached for funds to topple Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina, days after the government said it had foiled an assassination plot.
Malagasy authorities arrested six people – including two French citizens – on July 20 over the alleged assassination plot.
Benchmark, a majority shareholder in crude extractor Madagascar Oil, said it had “received an email from Madagascan-French citizen Paul R soliciting €10 million (US$11.8 million) for political destabilisation purposes”.
Local media houses published the alleged email exchanges between Benchmark Group and the suspect, dating back to October. The emails were reportedly found on the suspect’s computer.
Benchmark could face prosecution for complicity in undermining state security as it had failed to inform Madagascan authorities.
At the weekend, local media, including the government communications agency Taratra, said police had summoned Madagascar Oil’s MD as part of a probe into the alleged plan to assassinate the president.
Video footage of the investigators searching the house of one of the two French suspects showed the discovery of more than €930,000 (US$1.1 million) and a firearm. News agency Taratra said that the alleged plotters also sought support from mining companies.
The president’s special adviser Mr Patrick Rajoelina, hinted on France 24 that Malagasy military officers could also be involved in the plot.
At a brief news conference on July 26, Benchmark pledged its “full support” for the Madagascar government and condemned “strongly any action aimed at undermining the security of a democratically elected state”.
The “Paul R” referred to in Benchmark’s statement is Paul Rafanoharana, a former soldier and one of the two French citizens arrested on July 20.Rafanoharana reportedly asked Benchmark – which has operated in Madagascar since 2004, for more than US$11 million and in exchange he promised to assist the company’s operations in the country. In particular, Rafanoharana said he would facilitate signing of contracts that the company is pursuing. – Agencies