Eight executives of the oil services company, Bourbon, are appearing on March 18 in Marseille. They are suspected of having set up a vast network of corrupt tax officials in various African countries. On October 19, 2012, at Marseille airport, customs officers discovered in a suitcase $250,000, carefully packed in bundles of hundred-dollar bills. The suitcase belongs to the Bourbon Group’s tax director who has just returned from a business trip to Nigeria. He first explained to customs officials that he did not know the money was in his suitcase, then changed versions, mentioning financial problems related to his divorce.
Dismissed by his employer, the tax director then confessed to the investigators that he had gone to Lagos to reach an agreement following a tax audit against his company. Investigators will uncover the illegal practices of Bourbon leaders now accused of bribing tax officials in Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, for a total amount of $3.2 million. The tax director told the investigators that he had discovered in the company an organized system aimed at paying as little tax as possible, whether in France or abroad. Bourbon’s lawyers defend themselves by claiming that the tax director acted on his personal behalf without the knowledge of his management. Bourbon, which specializes in services to the oil sector, generates revenues of €1 billion in 45 countries.