Mauritius president refuses to resign over financial scandal
Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has refused to resign, vowing to fight allegations that saw her embroiled in a financial scandal, the presidency said in a statement Wednesday.
Gurib-Fakim, Africa's only female head of state, has been accused of using a bank card provided by an NGO to make personal purchases.
Last Friday Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced that Gurib-Fakim had agreed to resign, with a date set for her departure after Monday's ceremony celebrating the Indian Ocean archipelago nation's 50 years of independence.
But a statement from the presidency slammed "weeks of attacks and false allegations" and said Gurib-Fakim planned to clear her name and would not resign.
"Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, having nothing to feel guilty about and able to provide corroborating evidence, rejects any idea of resigning," read the statement.
"She is also willing to go to court to defend herself against the slanderous accusations against her."
Gurib-Fakim, whose role is mostly ceremonial, is a scientist and biologist of international renown, and in 2015 joined the London-based Planet Earth Institute (PEI) to try and develop scientific capacity in Africa.
The statement from the presidency said that in May 2016, she received a credit card to pay for travel and logistical expenses linked to her role.
Gurib-Fakim "who already had an identical credit card from the same bank inadvertently used the card from the PEI for expenses not linked to her mission totalling $26,000 (21,000 euros)", said the statement.
She said she immediately informed the PEI and paid back the amount, as well as all expenses paid by the PEI for her missions.
This is confirmed by a statement released by the PEI.
"She had repaid our Mauritian sister foundation for sums apparently inadvertently used on a credit card issued to her to cover logistical expenses whilst travelling to promote African science, technology and innovation," according to the brief statement on the organisation's website.
Gurib-Fakim "thus never received gifts, favours, wages or expenses from the PEI, nor undue benefits or advantage. Her mission ended on March 20, 2017," said the statement.
An investigation by Mauritian newspaper L'Express detailed the purchase of a laptop in September 2016, clothes, shoes and jewellery in October, more jewellery in November and luxury clothing in December.
However it was not just the expenditure that raised anger on the island nation, but the president's association with Angolan billionaire Alvaro Sobrinho who helped found the PEI and is himself being investigated in Switzerland and Portugal for suspected fraud.
In 2017 he received permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius, prompting allegations of favouritism on his behalf.
It was shortly thereafter that Gurib-Fakim, under pressure from the opposition, resigned from her role at the PEI.