December 22, 2017 / 10:14 AM / a year ago

Madame Idriss, the fixer

MORONI, Comoros Islands/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An important player in Semlex’s use of well-connected individuals to land contracts was a woman named Zina Wazouna Ahmed Idriss, an ex-wife of President Idriss Deby of Chad. She is referred to as Madame Idriss in Semlex emails.

A source with direct knowledge of the company, as well as a Semlex email written by the company’s finance manager in April 2009, described Wazouna’s role as acting as an intermediary to help Semlex win new business in Africa.

In November 2007 and February 2008, Semlex secured two deals worth around 21 million euros to produce passports, visas and ID cards for Gabon, Semlex contracts seen by Reuters show. From early 2008 to early 2010, Wazouna received payments totalling some 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) from Semlex, according to a Semlex spreadsheet of costs related to Wazouna reviewed by Reuters. The payments were described in invoices sent to Semlex as commissions for helping land business in Gabon.

Wazouna, described in her Chadian passport as a psychologist and in her Gabonese passport as an adviser to the Gabon foreign ministry, could not be contacted directly and did not respond to a request for comment sent via a friend in Chad.

Through a lawyer acting on its behalf, Semlex declined to comment. The Gabon government did not respond to a request for comment.

The payments to Wazouna were made in many forms. They included money for hotels, ski lessons, dresses, flights and cash, a Semlex spreadsheet from 2011 showed.

Semlex also paid Visa credit-card bills on behalf of Wazouna, according to a Semlex spreadsheet, and made three payments totalling 565,561 euros in 2008 that were listed as “Maison Waterloo.” Wazouna became owner of a house in the upmarket Waterloo district of Brussels in 2008, property documents show.

Semlex also paid nearly 90,000 euros to rent Wazouna an apartment in Monaco, Semlex documents show. She was nominated by the Comoros foreign ministry as honorary consul of the Comoros in Monaco in July 2010, according to a Comoros foreign ministry document.

Editing By Richard Woods

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