Foreign minister implicated in large-scale fraud
The foreign minister of the Comoro Islands, who has dual nationality, have been unlawfully receiving social benefits for years. He is now being prosecuted for fraud. A right-wing French politician is calling for tough action and sanctions.
Dhoihir Dhoulkamal, the Comoros’ foreign minister, and his wife are suspected of serious fraud. They were allegedly receiving family allowances and social assistance from the French state over a period of years, damaging the treasure by more than 200 thousand euros over five years, France Info writes. An official from the Family Allowance Fund (CAF) said that he has never heard of such a large fraud in his career. He told the paper that it was possible that the minister had embezzled even more money, as the limitation period is five years and the Family Allowance Fund did not investigate previous years.
The scheme was based on the fact that the minister’s wife lives in the French overseas department of Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, and the politician has been a dual national since 2000, when he acquired French citizenship. Thus, he received benefits from the French State with the active collaboration of his wife. She did not declare her husband’s income, even though he had worked as an MP and has been foreign minister of the Comoros since 2020. By failing to declare his income as a politician, the couple had been collecting schooling benefits, Christmas bonuses and other social benefits for years.
In addition to the above-mentioned fraud, the General Social Security Fund has also filed a complaint against Dhoihir Dhoulkamal. He is suspected of having illegally used a medical care health subsidy specifically intended for low-income households.
French paper Le Monde also reported on the incident, pointing out that Dhoihir Dhoulkamal and his wife have been under preliminary investigation by the public prosecutor’s office of Saint-Denis, the capital of Reunion, for alleged fraud at the General Social Security Fund (CGSS) and the Family Allowance Fund (CAF) since November 2020. The investigation was completed a few weeks ago and found that the minister and his wife had received social and health benefits in the amount of 251 thousand euros between 2015 and 2022.
The minister would not have been eligible for the French state aid mentioned above, as it is means-tested, but the politician receives a salary of more than 1,500 euros each month as an MP and 2,100 euros as a minister, the paper stressed.
There are, however, further accusations against the politician. Between 2012 and 2015, he worked as Secretary General of the Governor of Anjouan, the most populous island of the Comoros, but did not declare his income in his place of residence, Reunion. In quarterly tax returns,he claimed that he had no income at all. The couple also failed to declare the incomes of two of their three children, and the minister’s wife also concealed the fact that she had received more than 20 000 euros from a third party in 2017 and 2018.
Prosecutor Veronique Denizot told the press that she was considering legal action, but added that there was little chance of success as the minister had immunity.
Frederic Turblin, director general of the Reunion department’s family allowance fund, told the newspaper that the notices sent for recovery of the benefits wrongly received have been left unanswered. He added that the couple are not cooperating with the authorities. They refused to produce documents proving the benefits paid and did not respond to questions during the investigation. The social security agency also lodged a complaint against the minister, who had repeatedly stayed on the island for medical treatment without meeting the conditions for universal health care. In order to be eligible, a subject must prove that they have spent at least six months and one day a year on French soil, which was not the case for the Comorian minister. Le Monde has contacted the Comoros Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but has not yet received a reply.
French right-wing politician Marion Marechal, the niece of Marine Le Pen, also took notice of the incident. She is outraged by the Comoros’ refusal to take in illegal immigrants, their insults to the French and their demands for French territory, while one of their ministers has allegedly embezzled 200 thousand euros. According to Marechal, urgent and decisive action is needed to stop all financial transfers to the Comoros as soon as possible and the issuing of visas must also be suspended.
Les #Comores refusent de reprendre leurs clandestins, nous insultent, revendiquent un territoire français et l’un de leurs ministres frauderait 200.000 euros á la France.
Quand est-ce que le gouvernement fera cesser cette humiliation de notre pays ?
Il faut d’urgence stopper… pic.twitter.com/17QKbYyUiV
— Marion Maréchal (@MarionMarechal) May 26, 2023
The illegal migrants referred to in Marion Marechal’s post are Comorian nationals who have been flocking en masse to the neighbouring island of Mayotte, a French overseas department, where they support themselves by committing criminal acts in gangs. The situation has now reached civil war proportions and the population is terrified. In response to the emergency, the French government has recently begun the clean-up and demolition of one of the largest tin towns on the island known as Talus 2, in the Majicavo district of Koungou, in the north of the island.
Les premières images de la démolition d’un vaste bidonville dans le cadre de l’opération «Wuambushu» á Mayotte. pic.twitter.com/eUxPbAjZ1J
— Le Figaro (@Le_Figaro) May 22, 2023
The deportation of illegal migrants from the Comoros has also started, and the French and Comoros presidents have held talks to find a solution that is acceptable to all, while respecting human rights. Azali Assoumani wrote on Twitter that they were seeking a dialogue between the two governments.
Je me suis entretenu, ce lundi 8 mai, avec le Président @EmmanuelMacron á l’@Elysee. Nous avons discuté de la crise née de l’opération de décasages et d’expulsions á #Mayotte. Nous nous sommes convenus de privilégier le dialogue entre les deux Gouvernements pour trouver une issue… pic.twitter.com/cpdaaNea0b
— AZALI Assoumani (@PR_AZALI) May 8, 2023
The scandal of the Comoros foreign minister is expected to further exacerbate the existing tension between the two states.