The revelation of a shipment of rice, stored since 2017 and discreetly reconditioned, has led to the arrest of several individuals, including prominent figures. Here’s an overview of the unfolding situation.
A scandal involving spoiled rice has rocked the island nation since late December, implicating influential personalities. Just before the holidays, a journalist in Majunga, a western port city in Madagascar, exposed suspicious activities surrounding a shipment of rice stored at the port since 2017. Instead of being incinerated, the now inedible cereal underwent a secretive reconditioning process.
At the end of December, Majunga gendarmes discovered bags filled with the reconditioned spoiled rice in trucks. Inside the warehouse, where around 1,300 tons of cereal had been stored for over six years, agricultural machines for cleaning the grains were also found. The owner of the machines and some employees were subsequently placed in custody and incarcerated.
Eleven individuals held in custody
The investigation extended to Antananarivo and resulted in additional arrests in recent days, as explained by Colonel Tahina Ravelomanana, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division in the capital: “The Director of the Ministry of Trade in Boeny-Majunga and the Regional Prefect of Boeny have been referred to the Antananarivo Anti-Corruption Division and placed in custody.”
Regarding the parliamentarian intercepted on Saturday at the airport as he was about to board for Mauritius, “he is also subject to a summons to the Anti-Corruption Division and was questioned on Monday as a witness, similar to the regional governor,” the commander added.
Currently, 11 individuals have been placed in custody, with four of them held in pre-trial detention at Antanimora Central Prison in the capital. Interrogations are ongoing.
These local authorities are under investigation because their signatures appear on a leaked confidential document authorizing the removal of the spoiled goods from the port.
Industry specialists, when contacted, express bewilderment. “Why didn’t the Ministry of Commerce request the destruction of the shipment all these years? Why is it not the one who signed the removal letter, and is it the Minister of Justice who recently ordered the incineration of the rice?”
An ex-importer notes, “The current Minister of Commerce, a notorious importer of goods for decades, is well aware of the procedures. Why such inertia?”
On January 8th, authorities announced the discovery of new containers of spoiled rice being reconditioned – this time in Tamatave. These successive revelations during the lean season already suggest an impending rise in rice prices.