Burkina Faso: Tobacco Giant’s Burkina Faso Distributor Denies Smuggling, Funding Terrorism

Ouagadougou — Two investigative reports this year accused the Burkina Faso representative of tobacco giant Philip Morris of funding terrorism through tobacco smuggling. In an exclusive interview with VOA, Apollinaire Compaoré rejects those findings.

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 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.

“Indeed, we think Phillip Morris was aware of what he was doing,” Aisha Kehoe Down, OCCRP Investigative Journalist told VOA. “There’s also clear indications that parts of the Burkinabe state, including customs, were involved in the warehouse at Markoye. In fact, the customs officer we interviewed characterized it as a mafia at the top of the state.”

Burkina Faso’s customs department was not available to comment on the accusations against the agency or against Compaore, who also owns a major bank and telecom company.