French peacekeepers arrestedfor Ivory Coast bank theft

20th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Sept 20 (AFP) - Twelve French soldiers have been arrested in connection with the robbery of a branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in western Ivory Coast, a French military spokesman said Monday.

ABIDJAN, Sept 20 (AFP) - Twelve French soldiers have been arrested in connection with the robbery of a branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in western Ivory Coast, a French military spokesman said Monday.  

The spokesman for the French Operation Unicorn said that 65 million CFA francs (EUR 100,000, USD 120,000) had been stolen Friday from the BCEAO branch in Man, some 570 kilometers (340 miles) west of the main city Abidjan.  

The soldiers are among the more than 4,000 French military stationed in Ivory Coast to help reconcile the divided former French colony after two years of unrest spawned by a failed September 19, 2002 coup.  

"These soldiers profited from their assignment, protecting this bank branch, to rob it of these monies," spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy said.  

"They took advantage of the vigilance and the controls put in place by our operation," he said, adding that the troops were sent home Monday and would be brought before French justice.  

Disciplinary measures were imposed and an investigation of the command post was also ordered.  

The robbery came as banks across the eight-member Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) were in the early days of a massive currency changeover, replacing some 850 billion CFA francs from a 1992-era series of banknotes with new, more secure bills.  

Man's branch has been placed under extra surveillance for the three months of the handover and beyond by BCEAO officials eager to prevent further robberies in restive Ivory Coast following thefts from other branches over the last two years.  

Four French soldiers allegedly took a share of loot when former rebels carried out a September 2003 robbery of some EUR 30 million (USD 36 million) from a BCEAO branch in Bouake, the stronghold of the insurgents who  still holds Ivory Coast's north two years a their failed coup.  

One of the soldiers entered the bank during the chaos following the robbery to grab a bag of bills worth some EUR 57,000, which he then shared with three others including two sharpshooters, a French military tribunal found.  

As the largest member in the union, which also includes Mali, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast is responsible for some 40 percent of all currency moving around UEMOA.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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