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Will French diplomat accused of sex with a minor avoid prosecution?

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By Tabora Bojang

After a five-month investigation into the reported beach sex involving a French man and a minor, the Interior Minister has confirmed to The Standard that the case file has been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “advice and necessary actions” in consideration of the diplomatic status of the accused at the time.
Minister Ebrima Mballow told this paper on Wednesday that “because of the bilateral relations between France and The Gambia, it is very crucial for the case to be sent to MoFA for professional advice”.
The accused identified as John Veneau was being investigated by the police for allegedly having carnal knowledge of a suspected minor in the sea on 3 June 2018. Witnesses said the Frenchman was spotted allegedly having coitus with the young girl in the sea near Palma Rima beach and was consequently arrested by a mob who escorted the two to the tourism security offices stationed along the Tourism Development Area.
The case generated heated debates and child rights activists subsequently convened a press conference at the Tango offices in July to raise concerns on the implementation of the law for punishment of sexual crimes such as molestation and rape against children.

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In July, ASP Foday Conta, the deputy police spokesperson, confirmed the police had completed their investigations into the case and had passed the file to AG’s Chambers for action.
The deputy director of public prosecution at the AG’s Chambers, MB Abubakar, told The Standard that they conducted their investigations which concluded that even though there may be prima facie evidence of rape and indecent assault, but the evidence of indecent assault is stronger and direct against the suspect.
“However, because of the diplomatic issues involved we referred the case to the Ministry of the Interior to deal with it in conjunction with relevant government authorities,” the lawyer added.

But speaking to The Standard, Minister Mballow said the case has “yet to be totally dropped” and that it was a “subject of inter-ministerial investigation” between Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs.
“We have completed our part and sent it to Foreign Affairs. So we thought it is necessary to involve the Foreign Affairs ministry to take any necessary step in the case because we have a very crucial bilateral relationship with France,” Minister Mballow said.

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