Ivory Coast cocoa
Perseverance pays off for mourning Aylmer mother
Nicole Dubé finally received some good news about her late daughter, Lara Langlais, in mid-April.
“After five years, the Ivorian government finally responded to the request of the family and handed over documents which indicates that the death of Lara was an assassination,” reports the Aylmer mother.
She also obtained documents from a new police investigation from the Ivorian government indicating that the accused retracted his initial statement, indicating that Langlais’ death was indeed an assassination. Dubé is still hoping to obtain results of the initial autopsy carried out by Ivosep in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
“For Lara’s children, this is more than a victory, it’s the return of their real mother,” Dubé told the Bulletin.
Dubé’s nightmare began in September, 2009, when Ivorian police found Dubé’s daughter beaten and apparently strangled in her Yamoussoukro apartment.
Police hastily, according to Dubé, concluded the 41-year-old NGO worker died during a rough sexual relation and quickly arrested a suspect. Police added that the Canadian woman was a libertine with many lovers.
An incredulous Dubé, along with Langlais’ friends and family, fought to change the police report’s conclusion, but it was no easy task.
Certain observers associated the crime to Ivory Coast’s powerful cocoa mafia, known as Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate). The West African country is the top cocoa producer in the world, an industry valued at $3 billion; cocoa was why Langlais was in Ivory Coast.
Working with Agropole, Langlais was in Ivory Coast’s capital helping set up an organic cocoa production project with local farmers. Her $2 million project was never realized and individuals destroyed Langlais’ files and computer after ransacking her office.
“It seems the murderer assassinated my daughter because she had important information,” said Dubé, adding that Langlais’ death occurred three days before an audit. “Several countries had invested in the project but never saw any results,” noted Langlais’ mother. “It looks like a case of embezzlement by certain administrators.”
A recently surfaced police report does give Dubé some hope to prove this. The report says that the initial suspect admitted to having beaten the woman to death and only strangled her with a computer cable afterwards to cover his crime. He wanted to give the impression she committed suicide. The report adds that Langlais’ sexual practices had nothing to do with her death.
The police arrested and convicted this suspect, who Dubé always believed had given a false confession, but he escaped from prison during the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis following president Gbagbo’s defeat at the polls against challenger Alassane Ouattara.
The change in government gave Dubé hope in obtaining more documents, as analysts have linked Gbagbo’s family with the Ivorian mafia. However, the chaos of the crisis meant some communications lines broke down and documents went missing. Dubé did not let up; she continued to pressure authorities to obtain pictures, results of her daughter's’ autopsy, and she launched a petition aiming to restore her daughter’s reputation. In the end she prevailed with this new police report indicating Langlais’ death was indeed an assassination.