Billionaire Vincent Bollore, the largest shareholder of Vivendi SA, is being questioned by French judicial police on Tuesday as part of an investigation into corruption of foreign public officials, according to a person familiar with the matter.  The investigation analyzes the contracts awarded for the operation of container terminals in Lome, Togo and Conakry, Guinea, according to the person, who asked not to be identified as the investigation is ongoing. The French newspaper Le Monde reported that Bollore was arrested earlier on Tuesday.
The investigating judges suspect that the managers of Bollore Groupe used the advertising company Havas to facilitate the election of African officials. discount price, said the person. Other managers were also held for questioning on Tuesday, according to the person.
The Bollore Groupe said in a statement that one of its units is the target of an investigation into the billing of communication services in Guinea and Togo in 2009 and 2010. The company said it "formally denies" that the unit did something irregular.
"The interrogation of its executives will provide clarity to the judiciary on these issues, which were the subject of an independent audit that found the operations to be perfectly regular," the company said. The executives "are happy to cooperate fully" with the authorities.
The billionaire was the majority owner of Havas before being acquired by Vivendi in 2017. The offices of Bollore in Puteaux, France, were registered two years ago as part of the investigation, Le Monde reported at that time.
Bollore's shares fell up to 8 percent in Paris operations. They have declined 7.8 percent so far this year.
Bollore, 66, took over his family's paper company in 1981 and built a $ 14.8 billion conglomerate, with properties including African railroads and Asian rubber plantations.
Known as a corporate attacker and close friend of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he is one of the richest men in France, with a net worth of $ 6.6 billion.
Last week, Bollore handed over the reins of Vivendi SA, the French media company where he has been president since 2014, to his son, Yannick Bollore.
– With the help of Joe Mayes