Three African leaders to sue Transparency over corruption case

Bata (Equatorial Guinea) (AFP) –


The leaders of the oil-rich African nations of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo will sue Transparency International over a case in France involving allegedly ill-gotten properties worth hundreds of millions, President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea has said.

French human rights lawyer William Bourdon instigated the investigation in 2007 by making a formal complaint on behalf of the pressure group Transparency International France (TIF).

Obiang's son, Vice President Teodorin Obiang, is currently on trial in absentia in France for embezzlement. French prosecutors are seeking a three-year jail term and a 30-million-euro ($34-million) fine.

Prosecutors also asked a court in the capital to seize the six-storey mansion on Avenue Foch, Paris's poshest street, which is valued at 107 million euros, and other assets worth 43 million euros.

In 2012, French authorities swooped on the Avenue Foch mansion, seizing it along with a fleet of luxury cars including two Bugatti Veyrons and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Also being investigated are Gabon's President Ali Bongo, whose father Omar ruled the country for 42 years, and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo who both own eye-wateringly expensive real estate in France.

"I will hold discussions with the son of Omar Bongo and with Sassou Nguesso who are also confronting this case of ill-gotten wealth," President Obiang said.

"We will jointly file a suit against Transparency International," he told a congress of the ruling party on Thursday in Bata, the economic capital of the country.

"The buying of property in Europe is not forbidden under any national or international measures," he said.

"A property bought in France with money earned in Equatorial Guinea cannot be considered ill-gotten wealth," the 74-year-old leader said.

Teodorin Obiang, 48, has also denied any charges of wrongdoing.

But financial prosecutor Jean-Yves Lourgouilloux has said the younger Obiang, who was agriculture and forestry minister before his father made him second vice president in 2012, spent more than 1,000 times his annual official salary of some $80,000.

According to French media reports, Gabon's first family owns some 40 luxury mansions and apartments in Paris alone while Nguesso has a relatively modest 24 Parisian properties.