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Escape of jailed Frenchman triggers Madagascar outrage
A French security expert who went to Madagascar to advise the island nation's president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was jailed for three years for corruption and abuse of power. But he managed to escape late December and then accused the island's justice minister and its chief prosecutor of accepting bribes to enable his escape.
On Sunday, Justice Minister Elise Alexandrine Rasolo furiously denied the allegations that she had taken 70,000 euros in bribes.
"The statement made by Mr Arfa, which I categorically deny, is unfounded and clearly a lie," Rasolo said, adding that she planned to file a legal complaint against the erstwhile presidential adviser.
"How can we believe the word of a fugitive, an escapee who makes accusations against the justice minister?" she added at a televised press conference from which French media were excluded.
The island has been rocked by the scandal which broke just after New Year with a government spokesman describing Arfa as "pathetic" and the capital's chief prosecutor forced to deny she had taken bribes.
On 2 January, state TV appealed for the unrest of Arfa and his partner Marie-Claude.
Houcine Arfa, 54, who had worked as a security adviser to President Hery Rajaonarimampianina since 2015, denied the accusations that led to his conviction and jailing in November.
On 28 December, he gave his guards the slip during a hospital visit in the capital Antananarivo, made a 15-hour Indian Ocean crossing aboard a wooden paddle boat to the nearby French territory, Mayotte, before flying back to Paris.
"If I hadn't escaped I would have died," said Arfa after arriving in France, adding that he had lost 19 kilogrammes during his time in detention.
He claimed that while working at the highest level of Madagascar's establishment, he uncovered crimes committed by the presidential team and that he was jailed as part of a conspiracy to silence him.
- with AFP