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Benin to auction off assets held by opposition tycoon

The West African state of Benin says it will auction off art, luxury furniture and a Rolls-Royce limousine seized from an opposition tycoon who lives in exile in Paris. On August 9, auctioneers in Cotonou, the country’s economic hub, will put under the hammer 140 items belonging to Sebastien Ajavon, who has been handed a 20-year sentence on drugs charges. The sale includes a Rolls-Royce whose starting price is 80 million CFA francs ($122,339),…

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Artwork, expensive furniture, and a Rolls-Royce limousine were confiscated from an opposition tycoon in exile in Paris, and the West African state of Benin has announced that it will auction off the items.

After serving 20 years in prison for drug trafficking, Sebastien Ajavon’s belongings will be auctioned off on August 9 in Cotonou, the country’s economic hub.

The judicial branch of Benin’s finance ministry released a statement late Tuesday saying that a Rolls-Royce with a base price of 80 million CFA francs ($122,339) would be up for auction the following day.

On July 1, under heavy police and military escort, tax agents raided Ajavon’s home in the heart of Cotonou and removed all of his possessions.

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Before getting into politics, Ajavon amassed a fortune in the agricultural industry.

As an independent, he participated in the 2016 presidential election in March and finished third.

Ajavon voted for Patrice Talon, another thriving businessman, in the runoff election.

Relations between Ajavon and Talon, who were already rivals in business, quickly deteriorated after Ajavon decided to run for office.

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Ajavon was arrested in October 2016 after a shipment of cocaine to one of his businesses was found to contain approximately 18 kilograms (39.6 pounds) of the drug, with a street value of $14 million.

Several months later, he was let go for lack of proof.

Nonetheless, in 2018, a special court sentenced him to 20 years in prison without ever having to see him in court.

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights ruled that Ajavon’s conviction was unjust, but Benin has refused to overturn it. In March 2021, Ajavon was convicted of fraud and given a five-year prison sentence for his alleged involvement in the use of fake documents.

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The cotton magnate Talon was re-elected as president the year before on the strength of an economic reform platform.

However, detractors claim that his political and economic successes have come at the expense of one of the region’s most dynamic political cultures.

They claim that several members of the opposition have fled the country, while others have been barred from running in elections or are the subject of investigations.

bur/ri/ach

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