Madagascan president’s ex-aide pleads not guilty to bribery in London

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) – Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina’s ex-chief of staff on Friday pleaded not guilty in a London court to seeking a bribe from precious stone miner and Faberge owner Gemfields.

Romy Andrianarisoa, 46, and her French associate Philippe Tabuteau, 54, are accused of having sought 250,000 Swiss francs ($280,000) and a 5% equity stake in any Gemfield company mining in Madagascar.

They both appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, where Andrianarisoa pleaded not guilty to one count of bribery ahead of a trial due to take place in February.

Tabuteau did not enter a plea to one count of bribery.

The charge states the pair allegedly sought a bribe to ensure “legislation would pass in the Madagascan parliament to allow Gemfields to commence a mining operation”.

Prosecutors said at a hearing last month that Gemfields had approached Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which deployed an undercover officer who met with Andrianarisoa and Tabuteau in London.

At one of the meetings there was discussion as to whether the pair would be paid “in cash, gems or gold”, prosecutor Rosalind Earis previously said.

Madagascan President Rajoelina’s office said in a statement last month that Andrianarisoa had been sacked and that the president “remains firmly devoted to ethics in the conduct of state affairs and to fight corruption”.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin)