Operations at Citigroup's branch in the Ivory Coast were disrupted Thursday after military units seized computers and other electronic equipment, but the interruption proved short-lived as bailiffs returned the equipment before the end of the day.
A spokesman for Citigroup in New York said no account information was taken. He was unable to give further details.
The seizure followed a military coup in the West African nation on Christmas Eve. Reuters quoted an unidentified Citigroup official in Abidjan, the capital, as saying the raid was linked to a three-year-old litigation. The official declined to give further details but said the raid had no connection with an investigation by army officers into government accounts at other banks and assets of people connected with ousted President Henry Konan Bedie.
Citigroup, the only U.S. banking company operating in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa, has an extensive network of offices in Gabon, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Angola, Kenya, and South Africa. Recently, it has targeted North Africa and Egypt, in particular, for a major expansion of its corporate as well as consumer banking operations.
In late December Citigroup agreed to buy a 20% stake in EFG Hermes, Egypt's largest financial services company, for $40 million, with an option to acquire an additional 24% during the next three years. The deal is expected to be approved this month and to close in March.
Citigroup currently has two branches in Egypt - one in Cairo and one in Alexandria. Its executives have indicated that the company plans to open as many as 60 branches in Egypt this decade as part of a strategy targeting the large and growing middle classes there and in countries such as India, Turkey, and China.