Monday 26 January 2015

Irish worker 'illegally held' in Africa

Published 30/07/2014 | 02:30

Village in western Mauritania
Mauritania's government and security services are widely seen as corrupt, meaning many foreign companies rely on private security firms.

An Irish security worker has been "unlawfully detained" by secret police in Mauritania, according to his employer.

Derek Fergus is the regional security manager for MSS security, a company providing security to embassies, non-profit organisations and foreign mining companies in the region throughout West Africa.

The company regularly provides security for shipments worth millions of euro.

Mr Fergus was detained by airport police in Mauritania and handed over to secret police after returning from a visit to Ireland to visit his family.

He was held for six hours – and during his detention was taken to his house where officers searched all belongings.

Officers seized electronic equipment including external hard drives, along with his passport and resident's car.

He was released from custody but he hasn't had his belongings returned, and he has been warned not to leave the capital city Nouakchott.

A spokesperson for MSS said: "Our sources indicate that this wasn't an official arrest due to senior members of the Government security service being unaware of proceedings and that normal legal procedures were not followed.

"We suspect that the reason of his arrest was to obtain the contents of his laptop and data storage devices."

It is understood Mr Fergus' laptop contains sensitive financial information as well as security operating procedures.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed they were made aware of the case over the weekend and assistance was provided. However, a spokes- person said that the department was limited in what it could do as there was no Irish embassy in Mauritania.

"But under EU law, an Irish citizen can seek assistance from a resident mission or consular representative of any other EU member state," he said.

Irish Independent

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