With Gurib-Fakim’s ouster, PIE has claimed it’s first major casualty

Somethings, and people for that matter, are best kept away from. For associating with and being associated with such things and people eventually makes one become guilty by association, hurting their careers as well as reputations irreparably.

This must be lesson that Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the ex-President of Mauritius, who resigned early this month, has come to learn, even if it has come too late in the day.

(TOP: Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, ex-President of Mauritius – left – receiving an award from Planet Earth Institute’s (PIE) Alvaro Sobrinho, the NGO’s founder. Photo: MauNews Online). 

Let’s go back a little and get some background.

After she assumed the Presidency in 2015, Gurib-Fakim was in 2016 appointed to the board of Planet Earth Institute (PEI), an NGO founded by controversial Mozambican businessman Alvaro Sobrinho. She would eventually become the organisation’s Vice Chairman.

However, Gurib-Fakim – a distinguished scientist who previously served as the MD of CIDP Research & Innovation (formerly Cephyr, Centre for Phytotherapy Research), where she devoted her time to researching the medical and nutritive implications of indigenous plants of Mauritius according to Wikipedia – was soon to get into problems due to her association with PIE and Alvaro Sobrinho.

As reported by The Black Sea in its follow-up story on Alvaro Sobrinho and his links to politicians early this week, Gurib-Fakim was “a year ago forced to step down as Vice-Chairman of PEI in London for intervening to help speed up Sobrinho’s banking license applications in her country.”

Apparently, the ex-President “sent emails to the Financial Services Commission (of Mauritius) to request that a banking license be provided by the body latter to Sobrino”.

Sobrinho established Banco Valor 2012 after leaving BESA where he’s the CEO and it seems that he’d ambitions to expand the bank’s operations outside Mozambique by opening an affiliate in Mauritius.

Then in May 2016, Gurib-Fakim was issued a credit card by PEI to pay for travel and logistical expenses due to her role as the NGO’s Vice Chair. Instead of using the credit card purely for PEI-related expenses, she decided to use to purchase a notebook PC in September 2016, clothes and jewelry in October, more jewels in November and luxury clothes in December, all worth around US $30,000.

Even though she claimed that she’d realised her mistakes and reimbursed the funds to PEI, the damage already done to her reputation by the scandal – as well as her relationship to Sobrinho – was irreparable.

“Yet what stoked the public’s ire even more than the purchases themselves has been Gurib-Fakim’s association with an Angolan billionaire named Alvaro Sobrinho, who is a founding member of the PEI, and is himself under investigation in Switzerland and Portugal on fraud charges… Sobrinho won permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius in 2017, prompting allegations of favoritism on his behalf,” stated an article  in Deutsche Welle.

The fact that even as a sitting president Gurim-Fakim still let her various missions be paid for by PEI “was viewed as extremely embarrassing” as this was a private foundation. Section 30 of the Mauritius’ Constitution bars a sitting president from obtaining any benefits, emoluments, income apart from the salary and allowances paid to him/her by the state.

With her ouster, Alvaro Sobrinho – through PEI – has claimed its most profile victim as of now, all through association. And the public will be keenly watching to see who Sobrinho individually or PEI – which he set up to advance science and technology education and innovation in Africa – takes down with it in future, all through association.


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