Interview by Rodrigue Fénélon Massala, senior reporter.
Businessman Oumar Diawara entered the daily life of Ivorians when he twice recently seized an Air Côte d’Ivoire aircraft in Bamako and Conakry. On the strength of his judicial victory against the State of Côte d’Ivoire, on the basis of a verdict pronounced by the Common Court of ECOWAS, coupled with an execution order, the Congolese-Malian is however faced with a justice Ivorian evolving in contradiction with community justice. Interview.
How do you feel and how do you appreciate the verdict of the Ivorian justice which condemns you to 20 years in prison for complicity in the abuse of corporate assets and money laundering after your victory before the ECOWAS judges in the case against you? opposed to BNI Gestion?
First of all, I would like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself in the columns of Financial-Afrik for the very first time in order to deliver the ins and outs of the BNI / Gestion affair to you. with its subsidiary Perl invest object of the litigation which opposes me for more than 4 years with this entity and which has become a matter of State because it is with the State of Ivory Coast that I found myself before the judges of ECOWAS. In short, to respond to your concern and as you say, after a victory before ECOWAS, a supranational jurisdiction, that a first-degree court issues a decision condemning me to deprivation of liberty and confiscation of my property, while forbidding me to set foot on Ivorian soil and everything you have read in this decision remains for me a non-event …
Do you plan to appeal the decision?
We have already appealed the formally and historically unfair decision.
For you is this a form of retaliation or just a headlong rush?
It is worse than a form of retaliation. It is a retaliation tinged with a headlong rush with a refusal to accept international commitments by simple ego.
Let’s go back to the genesis of this business: at the start, you acquired Perl Invest, a subsidiary of BNI Gestion. What really happened?
Following an injunction from the regulator made to Bni Gestion to sell its real estate subsidiary, I acquired Perl Invest and its land of 96 hectares with funds from Bni bank on loan for the sum of 1.093 billion in addition to the liabilities to Bgfi for 15 billion FCFA. After checking the volumes sold, there were actually only 48 hectares. The difference never existed because after my complaint against Bni Gestion and its director, I realized that I had just been fooled by the embezzlement of 8 billion which corresponded to the missing 48 hectares.
Bni gestion itself lodged a complaint for abuse of corporate assets against its dismissed director. This director was arrested and sent to prison. Except that a month later, she was released on a bond of around 100 million FCFA. Subsequently, things changed. From a victim, I have become an accomplice. The judicial agent of the Treasury filed a complaint against me for complicity in the abuse of corporate assets and money laundering. The judge in charge of the case is changed in favor of that of the 5th cabinet and the cabal begins. The judge in question charges me in my absence, places my property in receivership and gives custody to the plaintiff.
From appeal to appeal, I turn to the court of cassation which relinquishes it but it refuses to comply. Instead of complying, the judge of the fifth cabinet asks and obtains, and this after her relinquishment by a judgment of the court of cassation meeting in plenary, a simple order from the president of the court of cassation ordering her to continue the instruction of the case. This judge thus orders the restitution of my seized property to the seller who is Bni gestion and not to the State which pursues me … In a few days, the land titles are changed and I seize the ECOWAS to say the right …
This is how on October 22, 2021, ECOWAS recognized the violation of my rights, asking the Ivorian justice, third power in the institutional order of the State of Côte d’Ivoire, to restore my rights. violated …
In light of all of the above, do you think you have been the victim of spoliation?
Obviously, without a doubt. Bni lend me money, I buy a subsidiary. I then find myself from the status of victim to that of money launderer … The State, through its judicial agent, gets involved without providing proof of the affiliate’s membership of the State. And justice denies me a fair trial. After 4 years, I get my rights recognized by ECOWAS. So yes, I am the victim of a gang scam with the added bonus of the state by its judicial agent and its judicial machine.
Why is the judicial agent of the treasury attacking you when we were in a prima facie private business transaction between private legal persons, pass us the pleonasm?
As I said before, this is an organized gang scam and it required leaders … who obtained the help of an economic penal pole led by a magistrate at the orders of her hierarchy.
In this case, you say you went from victim to accused status?
Without a doubt. ECOWAS, in its judgment of 22 October 2021, precisely in its following articles 118 and 119, said that the orders issued by the Ivorian national courts are null and void. These are the same invalid orders which allowed the Ivorian judges to condemn me. So, naturally, we will be returning to this independent court which will once again have to rule on violations of my primary rights of access to justice.
Why seize the Air Côte d’Ivoire plane, and not another property? He left, moreover, and you experienced this episode as a snub … a failure in Bamako and Conakry?
I seized the plane because the judicial officer says it is on file on behalf of the state’s 55% shareholding in Bni Gestion. In view of their reasoning, it is therefore possible for me to seize the State’s assets in its companies, in particular that of Air Côte d’Ivoire at 57%. So I will say no, there was no attempted seizure. There was a plane seizure. So I wasn’t a failure. If this case has this resonance today, it is precisely because of what they call attempt.
Can you explain to us why your councils talk about restitution of seized land?
My advice does not speak of restitution of land. The ECOWAS court speaks of restitution of my land. The Common Court stipulates that all orders dispossessing me are void and cannot have effect in law. This court recognizes the Violation of my rights. Something that has no effect (dispossessing me) then does not exist. My land should be returned to me simply. Better still, we are talking about land. There are real estate programs of almost 100 houses and apartments erected there. How not to return them to me?
How do you assess the attitude of the financial market regulator (CREPMF) who asked BNI Gestion to sell its real estate division?
An attitude of bad faith. A regulator who has been asking for the cession of an illegal activity since 2017. And who realizes that the sanctioned company has been in an operation to embezzle subscribers’ funds.
At no time was the CREPMF concerned about it. He has not initiated any investigation to clarify the situation. On the contrary, the CREPMF let itself be influenced by political decision-makers and waits for the same lands, object of their sanction, to return to the heritage, without wondering by what alchemy … They are accomplices by their attitude and well – of course, their responsibility will be engaged before the jurisdictions of the WAEMU of which they are members.
You know, the regulator’s attitude is all the more curious since the land ceded does not exist in its entirety because it has been cut in half. They know it and we have informed them.
What is even more serious, on these lands, we have built villas and buildings which, by order of a judge, return to the property of Bni gestion. And the regulator accepts a restructuring of the said company with funds and stolen assets.
On the question of the 8 billion embezzled by Bni management and its management, the regulator is ostrich so that this loss is compensated by the constructions that we carried out on land for nearly 100 houses between 2017 and 2021. Is this a regulator or other accomplice? the question remains!
How do you think you can win against a State which has also condemned you for complicity and which forbids you to set foot in the Ivory Coast?
This brings us back to the gang-organization of my plunder. The ECOWAS court said the right. I will get paid by all means of law. The surprise of the seizure of the plane will hide others. A State which accepts to ratify texts respects them. Regarding the condemnation of reprisals, we will wait for the response from ECOWAS, which we will recapture.
What are you waiting for today?
I am waiting for the Ivorian state to respect the treaties. And when you lose a case, you execute the resulting decision. It’s not that complicated. I just want the state of Côte d’Ivoire to restore my rights.
Can this matter be settled out of court?
I have no reason not to agree to a friendly settlement. They are the ones who abandoned this option initiated in 2017-2018 and then 2019-2020 by the outgoing Minister of Finance. Better a bad deal than a good trial, as they say. However, the state’s move to convict me doesn’t leave much option on that angle. This obliges me to continue legal proceedings pending an amicable or judicial resolution of this case.