One of France’s most influential business moguls, 66-year-old Vincent Bollore, has been detained by police over an investigation into allegations of corrupt business practices in Africa.

Vincent Bollore was taken into police custody in Paris on Tuesday, just one week since he stepped down as chairman of media giant Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music Group.

Bollore handed over the reins of his 20.5% stake in Vivendi to his son Yannick. Bollore had been Chairman of the media giant since 2014.

According to the Financial Times, the investigation focuses on suspicions around port deals made by the Bollore Group in 2009 and 2010 in Lome, the capital of the West African nation of Togo, and Conakry in Guinea – both of which are former French colonies.

The investigation is looking into whether payments were made towards the electoral campaigns of African politicians who once in office granted port concessions to the Bollore Group.

Alpha Condé and Vincent Bolloré in Conakry holding hands
Guinean politician Alpha Condé and Vincent Bolloré in Conakry

Police now have to decide whether Bollore will stand trial.

According to Variety, the news of Bollore’s arrest has caused shares in his Bollore Group holding company to fall more than 8%, while Vivendi shares dropped around 1%.

The Bollore group has denied any illegal actions

In a statement to media, the Bollore Group said it won the port contracts because of its long experience in Africa and 2 billion euros in investment on the continent in recent years.

The statement reads:

“This investigation is the result of a claim filed against Bolloré Group by a former employee who has been sentenced by a court to 3 years and 9 months in prison without parole and around 10 million euros of damages to the Bolloré Group for misappropriation of assets.”

It continues, “Its former subsidiary, SDV Africa, did not engage in any illegal actions and the Bolloré Group reaffirms that these communication services were conducted in full transparency. The hearing of its executives should provide the judicial authorities with useful clarification regarding these issues that have been assessed by an independent expert. This expertise led to the conclusion that these transactions fully complied with all laws and regulations.

“Bolloré Group executives welcome this opportunity to fully cooperate with the judicial authorities to restore the truth about those facts.”

The news follows an announcement by Vivendi chief executive officer Arnaud de Puyfontaine, who said the company had begun work on a “potential listing” of Universal Music Group.

However discussions of an IPO have been publicly commented on since as far back as June 2017 when Bollare said:

“The key question for an IPO is to know when is the best time to do it. It’s like cheese puffs – you have to take them out at the right moment.”