Ivory Coast Treasury Catches Fire; President Feels Heat of Financial Sanctions

A fire at the Treasury building in downtown Abidjan on Tuesday destroyed financial records on at least three floors, officials said. The fire comes at a time of increasing fiscal strain for the president, Laurent Gbagbo, who is facing international financial sanctions because he has refused to step down after losing an election in November. Last week, the United States ambassador, Phillip Carter, said Gbagbo had been extorting businesses to pay their taxes in advance.

In January, Gbagbo and his wife, Simone Gbagbo, were targeted by OFAC and added to the Specially Designated Nationals List. As a result, U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with Gbagbo and his wife, and any assets of the designees within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

Also designated were three of Gbagbo’s senior advisors and members of his inner circle, Desire Tagro, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and Alcide Ilahiri Djedje for acting for or on his behalf. View the Treasury Department press release here.

Gbagbo became president of the Ivory Coast in 2000, defeating a candidate backed by a military junta that had seized power the year before. His term ended in 2005, but he stayed on amidst lingering rebellion in the country’s north and deep splits in the country’s leadership. He was defeated in an election in November 2010 but has shown no intention of stepping down.

Alassane Ouattara, the man the United Nations, the African Union and other foreign powers say defeated Gbagbo, remains blockaded in a hotel by Gbagbo’s security forces, even as new sanctions and financial pressures rain down almost daily on Gbagbo. Veteran observers say the country may be headed for another civil war. According to the United Nations, more than 200 people have been killed in postelection violence.

Gbagbo has control over one of Africa’s most valuable commodities, cocoa (Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer). However, with his recent SDN designation, Gbagbo will not be able to engage in any transaction with a person, business or entity with financial ties to the United States.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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