Namibia president denies graft in nuclear deal

Namibian President Hage Geingob on on Monday strongly denied corruption accusations stemming from a French anti-corruption probe centered on the purchase of Canadian mining company Uramin by French nuclear giant Areva.

"The accusations of corruption concern the conduct of Areva and/or Uramin and do not implicate Dr. Geingob or the government of the republic of Namibia," the president's lawyer, Sisa Namandje, said in a legal letter seen by AFP.

Now known as Orano, Areva group spent $2.22bn to acquire Uramin and its uranium mines in Namibia, South Africa and Central African Republic.

But operations at the mines proved to be more tougher than expected and the investment turned into a financial disaster.

Areva made provisions for a $1.8bn writedown at the end of 2011, roughly the price of the initial transaction.

French investigators subsequently opened a probe into the affair.

Former Areva chief Anne Lauvergeon was implicated for having submitted inaccurate accounts intended to hide the collapse in the value of Uramin.

The former director of the group's mining operations, Sebastien de Montessus, is also being pursued for alleged corruption.

The lawyer's statement was sent to French media following reports from Paris last week.

Sources close to the French inquiry have told AFP that investigators are probing possible misappropriation of funds linked to the purchase of Uramin, and two contracts inked with Namibian company United Africa Group (UAG) worth a total of $8.5m.

They are also pursuing allegedly illicit monthly transfers of $10 000 to Geingob made between 2008 and 2009, added the sources.

Geingob's lawyer added in the letter that the sums were paid to Geingob for "advisory work at Uramin" undertaken before his appointment as commerce and industry minister in 2008.

"There is no link between the additional costs of the transaction between Areva and Uramin, and the services delivered by (Geingob's) HG Consultants," wrote Namandje.

"No other payments exist between Areva and Dr. Geingob."

Geingob, 76, was prime minister of Namibia between 1990-2002 and 2012-2015 before becoming president in 2015.