18 Jan 2018
Police on Wednesday searched the headquarters of Belgian company Semlex, which supplies passports to various African countries, and the home of its CEO, Albert Karaziwan.
About a dozen officers arrived at Semlex’s office in Brussels and at Karaziwan’s house in the city early in the morning. By early afternoon, the search was still continuing.
A spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor said: “We are carrying out those searches in a case of possible money laundering and corruption.”
He declined to give further details.
Karaziwan did not comment when contacted by telephone. “Stop your dramas … Thank you and goodbye,” he said before hanging up. A lawyer for Semlex did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Earlier this week, authorities in the Comoros Islands, an archipelago off the east coast of Africa where Semlex has supplied identity documents since 2007, cancelled 170 passports that the government said had been improperly issued to foreigners, including many Iranians.
The passports, supplied by Semlex, had been issued between 2013 and 2016 by a previous government.
The current government of the Comoros last week also withdrew a diplomatic passport issued to Karaziwan by a previous administration that had appointed him a roving ambassador.
The action by authorities in Belgium and the Comoros follows two Reuters reports examining the activities of Semlex in Africa, where the private Belgian firm has landed contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Semlex and Karaziwan did not respond to requests for comment on those reports. In December, when the second report was published, Francois Koning, a lawyer representing Semlex, said Reuters was being manipulated by a third party trying to damage the company.
Photo – Ian Mackenzie
– By Philippe Engels, David Lewis and additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Reuters. 17 January 2018
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