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Audio released as former Chief of Staff to Madagascan President sentenced

The National Crime Agency has released new audio clips exposing bribery in action after today’s sentencing of the former Chief of Staff to the President of Madagascar and her associate, French national Philippe Tabuteau.

Romy Andrianarisoa, 47, from Madagascar, and Tabuteau, 54, were charged in August 2023 after requesting substantial sums of money in exchange for their help in securing an exclusive mining joint venture with the Government of Madagascar.

The pair attempted to solicit a bribe from Gemfields, a UK-based company that specialises in the responsible mining of rubies and emeralds.

Andrianarisoa approached Gemfields via an introductory agent before organising several in-person conversations to discuss potential contracts. Suspicious of the pair’s intentions, Gemfields reported concerns about corruption to the NCA, who launched an investigation which made use of surveillance and other covert tactics.

Tabuteau pleaded guilty in September 2023 and Andrianarisoa was found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court in February. Today, the pair received a combined sentence of 5 years and 9 months years in jail.

Six audio clips captured by the NCA during the investigation have now been released.

The first three were recorded during a meeting at a central London hotel on 20 June 2023, the purpose of which was to discuss the terms of a “Business Consulting Services” contract written by Tabuteau. During the conversation, the pair requested 250,000 Swiss Francs as payment for organising an invitation from the President of Madagascar to initiate the collaboration and for procuring that joint venture terms were signed. This was in addition to a “success fee” in the form of a 5% equity stake in the collaboration as well as a further 5,000 Swiss Francs, later bumped up to 10,000 Swiss Francs by Andrianarisoa, as a goodwill payment to get the project moving.

Following introductions, Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau discussed a “buffer zone” or “firewall” to distance any bribery payments from Gemfields. It is clear that both parties understood the request for money and shares to be the solicitation of a bribe, with acknowledgement of the need to ensure that Gemfields’ reputation would not be affected by any potential scandal should the payments come to light.

Throughout the meeting, Andrianarisoa described her role within, and influence on, the Madagascan government. She showed no alarm at the direction the meeting took, making it clear that “there is my work in terms of supporting the government and the country in terms of development […], but there is also my work of, you know, earning my life”. During her Evidence-in-Chief at trial, Andrianarisoa stated that many of her more inappropriate comments were due to her struggle with the English language. That same defence was used when she provided conflicting information about her relationship with Tabuteau, whose occupation she claimed she did not know and who she denied working with before 2021 despite knowing him in a personal capacity for the previous 27 years. During the trial, it became apparent that she had studied at universities in both Nottingham and Canada and clearly spoke and understood an excellent standard of English. She gave evidence at the trial without use of an interpreter.

One of Andrianarisoa’s defences was that she remained a passive voice throughout key discussions. Paradoxically, during the same meeting, she clearly emphasised her influence within government: “Once we introduce you to the boss... Well, before we introduce you to the boss, and this is something that we're working on, we need to get the field ready, which means we need to work on, who is Gemfields, and why would we choose Gemfields, and the...I'm very honest, but also very humble, the value of my words is what the boss is listening to.” Her “boss” was the President of Madagascar.

Clip four is taken from a phone call on the 28 July 2023 in which Andrianarisoa made a clarification regarding the goodwill payment of 10,000 Swiss Francs: “May I just tell you because I believe there is a misunderstanding but it's important that we keep transparency, and direct conversation between us, because what I read in the contract was 10 for both of us, and what I was saying when I met you was 10 per capita. For Philippe, and myself.” At the trial, Andrianarisoa claimed that Tabuteau had told her what to say and that she believed the money would be passed directly to the government of Madagascar. She stated that it was not unusual for Madagascar to outsource negotiations to foreign consultants and that she trusted Tabuteau to act on her behalf.

The final two clips are taken from a meeting in London on 10 August 2023. During this final meeting, Andrianarisoa mentioned that “Fiduciare is really the company that has been my screen for years” – describing a Swiss company called Fiduciare Suisse S.A. which was destined to receive the illicit funds. Her influence was again referred to by Tabuteau who stated that the President “won’t sign if Romy doesn’t say sign”.

The pair were arrested by NCA officers that same day. Today, Friday 10 May, Andrianarisoa was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months, and Tabuteau was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months.

Andy Kelly, Head of the International Corruption Unit (ICU) at the NCA, said:

“This investigation demonstrates the ability of the ICU to capitalise on cooperation from industry, and the determination of our officers to bring to justice those who undermine the rule of law.

“We are particularly grateful to Gemfields for not only bringing this matter to our attention, but also continuing to work with us throughout the investigation to bring about a successful result.”

Thomas Short, a specialist economic crime prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service, said:

“Romy Andrianarisoa is a corrupt official who chose to enrich herself in the course of her public duties.

“The CPS provided legal advice to the NCA throughout the investigation and prosecution to put together the strongest case in court.

“By reporting the pair to the authorities Gemfields have protected their business and those of others from greedy and unscrupulous individuals.”

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