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One of Burkina Faso’s Richest Men Denies Trafficking Cigarettes across West Africa

Selling cigarettes to smugglers who pay jihadists to protect their convoys. That’s the accusation leveled against the Burkina Faso representative of Phillip Morris International by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP. In an exclusive interview with VOA, Apollinaire Compaoré rejects those findings. In a February report, the Sarajevo-based group cited officials, rivals and former colleagues of Apollinaire Compaoré who accused him of indirectly funding terrorism by working with smugglers who carry not only cigarettes, but drugs and people into Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Libya. It also accused Burkina Faso authorities and the Swiss American tobacco giant of being complicit in a vast smuggling operation centered around a warehouse in the northern town of Markoye. But a 2019 U.N. report also found that a company owned by Compaoré supplied regional smugglers, says one of the report’s authors. In an exclusive interview for VOA, Compaoré refuted all these accusations. He says the United Nations lied and that those who worked on the report for the U.N. are no longer employed by them. One of the richest men in Burkina Faso, Compaore also dismissed claims in the OCCRP report that two of his companies have never paid taxes.