In an international context marked by calls for increased financial transparency, France must shed light on an emblematic case of misappropriated public funds.
Transparence - International (France) and the SHERPA association announce that a complaint with “civil party petition” was lodged regarding the means through which a very important patrimony was acquired in France by Mrs. Denis Sassou Nguesso (Congo - Brazzaville), Omar Bongo Ondimba (Gabon) and Téodoro Obiang Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), as well as their relatives. Considering the large volume of real estate obtained by these ruling families, it is likely that the properties could not have been acquired due to their own official salaries, taking into account that they are subject to serious presumptions of misappropriation of public assets.
This complaint is filed by Transparence - International (France), and Mr. Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa Gabonese citizen, defended by Mr. William Bourdon, attorney-at-law. The very same facts have already been denounced in two previous complaints, filed in March 2007 and July 2008 respectively.
Because of intensifying threats against both her physical integrity and her relatives’, Mme Béatrice Toungamani, Congolese member of the Congolese Platform against Corruption and Impunity (PCCI), has eventually decided to retract from the complaint.
Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa has suffered from growing pressure and harassment from various members of the Gabonese government who tried until the very last moment to prevent him from lodging a civil party petition.
The civil party petition, offers plaintiffs a possibility to overcome the decision of the Public prosecutor, who, in spite of the very conclusive results of the police investigation carried out in 2007, decided to dismiss the case . If the plaintiffs are ruled admissible, an investigating judge will automatically resume and extend the initial police investigation. In such case, this magistrate will have to determine how the patrimonies were acquired, as well as the origins of the funds in numerous bank accounts. The judge will also have to draw all the consequences of the role played by various intermediaries in those transactions.
Transparence - International (France) should be ruled admissible in the current case because the facts denounced by the complaint directly harm the very interests defended by the association, namely preventing and fighting corruption nationally and internationally.
Regarding Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa, as a Gabonese tax payer, he must be allowed to lodge a civil party petition in order to get redress not only for its personal damage but also for the damage suffered by the national community as a whole. With this respect, we can hope that justice will seize the occasion to progress on this specific issue of the right to reparation for the victims of corruption.
Transparency International (TI) Chair Huguette Labelle stated TI's strong support to TI-France and Sherpa's initiative.
Moreover, Sherpa as well as some TI chapters are considering the possibility to initiate similar actions in other countries.
 The police investigation uncovered that Omar Bongo and his relatives own 39 apartments, most of which are located in the wealthiest district of Paris, 70 bank accounts and 9 cars. Regarding Mr. Sassou Nguesso and his relatives, 24 apartments and 112 bank accounts were found by the police. As for the Obiang family, 8 luxury cars and an apartment were identified.
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