A Togolese court in the capital city of Lome will hear charges this week against the former head of French oil giant, Elf, following his extradition under an international arrest warrant from the Ivory Coast.
Loik Le Floch-Prigent was detained as he tried to board an Air France flight to Paris on Friday. The alleged scheme involves a Togolese bank account purported to contain more than $270 million left behind by the Ivory Coast's former military ruler Robert Guei, who was killed in 2002, according to Radio France Internationale.
Le Floch-Prigent is no newcomer to scandal. In 2003 he was convicted for embezzling more than $350 million in public funds during his time as Elf’s CEO. The case was described as the biggest political and corporate sleaze scandal to hit a western democracy since World War II.
But Elf was also a serial meddler in African politics. Created by General de Gaulle in 1965, it was used as a covert tool for maintaining the French presence in Africa.
Testimony at the 2003 trial revealed huge sums paid by Elf to Omar Bongo, Gabon's president, and the leaders of Angola, Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville. The multi-million dollar payments would guarantee that it was Elf and not US or British firms that pumped the oil, but also ensure the African leaders' continued allegiance to France.
In Gabon, Elf was a veritable state within a state. In return for protection and sweeteners from Elf's coffers, France used the state as a base for military and espionage activities in west Africa.
The company was privatized and now, reorganized as Total, has holdings in 14 Africa oil-producing countries.