Namibian President denies corruption in nuclear deal

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Hage Geingob, President of Namibia addresses the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly September 29, 2015 in New York.

WINDHOEK – Namibian President Hage Geingob on Monday strongly denied corruption accusations stemming from a French anti-corruption probe centred on the purchase of Canadian mining company Uramin by French nuclear giant Areva.

"The accusations of corruption concern the conduct of Areva and/or Uramin and do not implicate Dr Geingob or the government of the Republic of Namibia," the president&39;s lawyer, Sisa Namandje, said in a legal letter seen by AFP.

Now known as Orano, Areva group spent 1.8 billion euros ($2.22 billion) to acquire Uramin and its uranium mines in Namibia, South Africa and Central African Republic.

But operations at the mines proved to be more tougher than expected and the investment turned into a financial disaster.

Areva made provisions for a 1.5-billion-euro write-down at the end of 2011, roughly the price of the initial transaction.

French investigators subsequently opened a probe into the affair.

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Former Areva chief Anne Lauvergeon was implicated for having submitted inaccurate accounts intended to hide the collapse in the value of Uramin.

The former director of the group&39;s mining operations, Sebastien de Montessus, is also being pursued for alleged corruption.

The lawyer&39;s statement was sent to French media following reports from Paris last week.

Sources close to the French inquiry have told AFP that investigators are probing possible misappropriation of funds linked the purchase of Uramin, and two contracts inked with Namibian company United Africa Group (UAG) worth a total of 6.9 million euros.

They are also pursuing allegedly illicit monthly transfers of $10,000 to Geingob made between 2008 and 2009, added the sources.

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Geingob&39;s lawyer added in the letter that the sums were paid to Geingob for "advisory work at Uramin" undertaken before his appointment as commerce and industry minister in 2008.

"There is no link between the additional costs of the transaction between Areva and Uramin and the services delivered by (Geingob&39;s) HG Consultants," wrote Namandje.

"No other payments exist between Areva and Dr Geingob."

Geingob, 76, was prime minister of Namibia between 1990-2002 and 2012-2015 before becoming president in 2015.