Former Central African prime minister Martin Ziguele on Friday denied carrying 11.8 kilogrammes (26 pounds) of bushmeat, mainly monkey, in his luggage, a day after French customs officials fined him and seized the cargo at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.
"I've never carried in monkey. I had three suitcases, including one with beef jerky, river fish and four pieces of antelope meat," Ziguele told AFP regarding the Air France flight from Bangui.
"Customs told me there was no issue with the fish and beef, but as for the antelope, it was game meat and thus forbidden," he added.
He said the meat had been confiscated and there was no mention of "monkey" on the receipt. He also denied having paid a fine.
Investigators said Thursday that the meat, "mainly of a protected species", was in his luggage when he arrived at the Paris airport.
A judicial source said it was bushmeat, mainly monkey, and that Ziguele had been fined.
The source added that customs inspectors had found a total 600 kilogrammes of meat in passengers' luggage on the Bangui flight.
French customs officials refused to confirm the information.
The luggage control was part of a larger operation launched by the airport Monday targetting the trade and illegal transport of protected species.
Given the possible diseases and insects in the meat, this kind of transport poses health risks, with monkey meat in particular a reservoir of serious diseases that are transmittable to humans.
Ziguele, who was prime minister between 2001 and 2003 and who was defeated by Francois Bozize in presidential elections in 2005 and 2011, said Thursday the meat was for his personal consumption.© ANP/AFP