Ill-Gotten Gains : Gabon

The Facts…

President of the Gabonese Republic from 1967 to 2009, Omar Bongo Ondimba ruled Gabon against a continuous backdrop of suspected corruption.  On several occasions between 1997 and 2009, his name as well as that of his wife, Edith Bongo, appeared in connection with cases involving illicit financial flows, while Gabon, rich in natural resources such as petroleum and wood, was number 106 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index in 2013.  His son, Ali Bongo, who succeeded him in 2009, is also strongly suspected of acts of corruption, notably in the United States.

 

The Litigation…

In 2007, Sherpa and its partners file a complaint against five foreign heads of state, which ended in the case being closed several months later.  In 2008, with Sherpa’s legal support, Transparency International France and a Gabonese national file a complaint and a civil action before the investigating judge in Paris implicating Omar Bongo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of Congo Republic, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea, and certain members of their entourage..

This complaint considers the following offenses: receipt of stolen goods, misappropriation of public funds, misuse of company assets, breach of trust, corruption, corruption of public officials and private persons, and aggravated money laundering by an organized group of the proceeds from criminal offenses, in particular the misappropriation of public funds, misuse of company assets, corruption, and breach of trust.

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The Bongo family | ©Aymard

The Office of the Public Prosecutor tries to obstruct the case many times in 2009 in an attempt to have the complaint and civil suit filed by Transparency International France declared inadmissible.  The Paris Court of Appeals finally declares the complaint and civil suit inadmissible in October 2009 and the decision is immediately appealed.  The decision by the Paris Court of Appeals is finally overturned and annulled by the Superior Court of Appeals, which, in November 2010, declares the complaint and civil suit filed against Denis Sassou Nguesso, Omar Bongo, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as well as certain members of their entourage admissible.

New properties discovered in Nice

In January 2012, the Public Prosecutor finally signs a supplementary indictment for charges of money laundering and receipt of stolen goods in order to expand the jurisdiction of the investigating judges.  Several months later in July 2012, maître Bourdon, lawyer for Transparency International France, advises the investigating judges of new developments, including the acquisition of a new apartment by Miss Pascaline Bongo, eldest daughter of Omar Bongo.  

In 2013, the presence of a second officer in the investigative procedure allowed steps to be taken that led to the discovery of new elements, estimated to be worth a minimum of 21 million euros, tied to the 39 properties throughout France belonging to the Bongo family.  During searches in February 2013, the investigators discover two new villas in Nice not mentioned in the holdings cited in the complaint in 2008.

Procedure & Milestones…