Its government seeks the extradition of Abdourahiman Boreh from the Emirates and France
The ruling passed in my absence has no effect on me – Boreh
A criminal court in Djibouti sentenced Abdourahiman Boreh, the self exiled but richest businessman from Djibouti, to a 15-year prison term and a fine of 56,000 dollars.
Djibouti’s prominent businessman and once staunch ally of Ismael Omar Guelleh (IOG), the second president of Djibouti since independence in 1977, was sentenced on June 23, 2010, in his absence. He was charged with involvement in “terrorism” in relation to an incident where a suspect threw a grenade at a supermarket in Djibouti City.
The alleged suspect in this incident, by the name Mahadi, was later found dead inside a prison cell. Criminal prosecutors in Djibouti accused Boreh for having been involved in this, allegedly giving direction to the person on the phone from his home in exile.
Boreh was served the charges in Dubai on June 3, 2010. But his French lawyers were denied the right to stand for him, thus he was found guilty in Djibouti without defending himself, he claimed.
“This is against international law,” Boreh told Fortune, in a telephone interview from Dubai, on Friday, July 9, 2010. “They are [going] against basic values of human rights to deny me the right to defend myself.”
Following the ruling, the government of Djibouti launched an effort to extradite the businessman, who is also a French national, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France, according to reliable sources. It is also doing the same with French authorities, these sources disclosed.
“They have tried to get me through Interpol,” Boreh said confirming these reports to Fortune. “It did not fly . . . with them [Interpol].”
The Djibouti government’s efforts to secure his extradition do not scare him and “have no effect” on him, Boreh said. His prosecution is politically motivated, Boreh argued, believing it was done to counter his suit against Guelleh and his wife in a French court.
“It is in retaliation for my bid for political office,” Boreh told Fortune. “And it is also in response to my legal challenges in a French court.”
He previously accused the couple of murder, kidnapping, and extortion, and the case remains pending in a French court.
Both natives of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, Guelleh and Boreh go a long way back, working together for the ascendancy to the presidency of the former when he took power from Hassan Gouled Aptidon, the first president of the nation, in 1999. Boreh was instrumental in bringing Dubai World (DP) and its subsidiary companies to invest over half a billion dollars in Djibouti, building a luxury hotel and a brand new port at Doraleh, incorporating container and oil terminals. Although Boreh never assumed an official government portfolio, except for being a member of the ruling party, he was appointed as chairman of the board of the ports authority of Djibouti.
But the two onetime closest allies have been on a collision course since late 2008, after Boreh showed an interest in replacing Guelleh as president, when his two terms in office come to an end in 2011, according to sources.
Guelleh wants to remain in power for a third term, after amending the constitution that limits an elected president to two terms of six-years each.
Boreh fled the country in 2008, immediately after an incident where army officers had interrupted construction work at Doraleh for three hours, alleging that the contracted firm, SOPRIM, owned by him, had failed to pay close to five million dollars in taxes. He has never set foot in his country since then.
“I will be back,” Boreh said last week in his interview.
He has been pondering the idea of running for the presidency as a candidate in the forthcoming election.
“If my people want me and call me to serve them as their president, I will,” said Boreh.
But he fell short of explaining how he could be a legal candidate while having a 15-year sentence on his head and remaining a fugitive.
Neither does he have the interest to appeal against the ruling, for a he believes he is no criminal.
“I am not going to waste my time,” Boreh told Fortune.
The absence of moderation and the President’s drive to change the Constitution spells bad news for Djibouti, Boreh warns. The husband and wife make decisions on every Djiboutian life, he alleges.
“They decide who should work, do business, and live life,” Boreh said. “If he continues like this and pushes people like this, there will be a civil war.”
By TAMRAT G.GIORGIS
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER