Archive for Chad
Fallout from a high-profile Calgary bribery case has spread from Canada to Africa, now that Chad’s president has reportedly sacked an ambassador for his role in a cash-for-access scheme targeting lucrative oil plays in the African nation. Just one day after a Canadian judge ordered Griffiths Energy International to pay $10.35-million in fines for a 2011 bribe paid to the wife of Mahamoud Adam Bechir, at the time Chad’s ambassador to Canada, President Idriss Deby Itno dismissed Mr. Bechir from his latest diplomatic post in South Africa, according to local Chad media. A French-language tchadonline.com article said the president responded to the Canadian decision in the most “severe” way, firing Mr. Bechir for transforming his diplomatic mission into a “haven for white-collar criminals.” When the bribery scheme took off in 2009, shortly after legendary investment banker Brad Griffiths incorporated his oil-exploration company, Mr. Bechir was simultaneously serving as Chad’s ambassador to the United States and was housed by an embassy in Washington, D.C. The National Post reached Chad’s embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, where Mr. Bechir most recently served, but a press secretary there said he had not been in the country since leaving for Chad on regular official business sometime in November. When asked about reports that Mr. Bechir was dismissed over the weekend, the press secretary said “there is no problem” and that “he will come back.” South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation department still lists Mr. Bechir as Chad’s ambassador in Pretoria. Chad’s government did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Mr. Laotegguelnodji was describing a photograph of him meeting the president and first lady when they were in New York for the General Assembly. Accompanying the presidential photo is a handwritten inscription: “To His Excellency, Koumtog. With best wishes, George and Laura.” Beside that hangs another photo. “That’s the former secretary,” he said, motioning to a portrait of him presenting his credentials to Secretary General Kofi Annan on Dec. 20, 2000, the day Mr. Laotegguelnodji (pronounced LAO-technology) officially became Chad’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He keeps these mementos in his small apartment in Corona, Queens, hanging up a few feet from a bunk bed in a living room that doubles as a bedroom for his seven-member family. The photos remind him of his former career as a diplomat, before threats caused him to flee his home country, before he found himself living in limbo and relying on food stamps. When Mr. Laotegguelnodji, 67, who was born and raised in Chad, received his appointment to the United Nations in 2000, it was the capstone of a career in international relations that began when he left his homeland to study at the University of Paris. During his tenure, from 2000 to 2005, he also oversaw the Chad mission in the United States. He lived with his wife, Madeleine, 48, and their five children, first in Richmond Hill, Queens, and later on Long Island. He traveled back to Chad regularly for meetings, spending about three months a year there, he said. When his term ended, in February 2005, he returned to Chad intending to present to the president a report on his mission. At that time, the government was making plans to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution and remove presidential term limits. Mr. Laotegguelnodji vocally opposed the measure because Idriss Déby, the president of Chad since 1990, had already been elected twice. That June, the referendum approved the elimination of term limits. Mr. Laotegguelnodji found himself in the difficult position of having publicly broken with the president. Fearing for his safety, he fled Chad and resolved to make his future in the United States. He and his family applied for asylum in February 2006 and received final approval on Feb. 20, 2009. They are now permanent residents, and their ultimate goal is to gain citizenship. He currently earns $7.25 an hour from the City Department for the Aging Title V job-training program, and his wife earns $9 an hour as a home health aide. They also receive $530 a month in food stamps, and their older children work, but there is little money left for extra expenses after paying $1,154 a month in rent.