President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius has resigned amidst allegations of a credit card fraud, and will leave office on Friday, March 23. Her lawyer, Yusuf Mohamed, made the announcement on Saturday.
Last month, it was reported that the president, who has a largely ceremonial function in Mauritius, had done quite an amount of shopping for clothes and jewellery in Italy and Dubai using a credit card issued by Planet Earth Institute (PEI), an international non-governmental organization. The London-based institute had given President Gurib-Fakim the card for her to pay for travel and other expenses related to her work for the organisation.
According to Gurib-Fakim, using the card was accidental; she owns a personal identical card from the same bank and had mixed both up. The 58-year-old said she had paid back the money, $26,000 and any sum used for her personal expenses from the PEI credit card.
The institute validated her claims via a statement on their platform, while adding that the president had tendered her resignation as well.
“The PEI accepted the resignation of Prof. Gurib-Fakim on 20th March 2017. She had repaid our Mauritian sister foundation for sums apparently inadvertently used on a credit card issued to her to cover logistical expenses whilst travelling to promote African science, technology and innovation.”
But more than the credit card brouhaha, Gurib-Fakim’s initial involvement with the institute didn’t sit well with the people of Mauritius. PEI was founded by Angolan businessman, Alvaro Sobrinho, who is currently being investigated for fraud in Portugal. Last year, his establishment of an investment bank in Mauritius steered criticisms against the Mauritian government.
According to Mohamed, Gurib-Fakim’s lawyer, her recent decision to step down is to prevent a constitutional crisis, “She doesn’t want the country … to suffer. In the country’s best interests she has decided to leave,” Mohamed said.
Gurib-Fakim would have marked three years in office in May. Before becoming president, she was a university professor and entrepreneur as the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP), research and innovation institution. She was also a renowned award-winning biodiversity scientist.