Gabon’s Bongo family at center of controversy over illicit wealth

The Bongo family which ruled Gabon since 1967 was at the core of a scandal that took an international turn after a probe in France in 2010.

Late President Omar Bongo acquired dozens of millions of euros over the years, as well as numerous real estate assets in Paris and Nice, which Anadolu managed to localize.

Villas from Libreville to Nice

Nice, France’s Mediterranean tourist spot, offers posh neighborhoods, including Cimiez.

Omar Bongo chose this place between 1967 and 2009 to rest in France and bought many estates in the area, each competing in luxury.

“There are guards who have been here for a long time. The residency is still guarded,” a neighbor told Anadolu on Thursday, near one of Bongo’s six properties in the city.

“You know, most (residents) have been here for years, so everybody knows each other, even though we have new neighbors at times,” added another. “It is like a small village here, honestly, we do not want to be known for all of those subjects.”

Another property, Saint-Ange Villa, on Flirey Avenue, was bought for €1.9 million ($2.05 million) in 1999 by Omar Bongo. The premises and the yard of the villa seemed abandoned.

Probe into Bongo’s properties

Three associations fighting against corruption filed a complaint in 2007 and put the spotlight on Bongo’s assets that were built also thanks to money from oil exploitation by the Elf and TotalEnergies companies.

The investigation started in 2010 and nine children of Omar Bongo were pursued and placed under investigation for misuse of public funds, corruption, money laundering and abuse of social goods.

Ali Bongo was never targeted due to his presidential immunity, but the tables might turn after the military took power Wednesday in Gabon.

A Paris court order in February 2022 noted that the “large fortune” of the late Omar Bongo came from the misuse of public funds and corrupt money from oil companies.

The value of the Bongo family’s assets is estimated at around €85 million, according to a court order in 2022.

Early Wednesday, a group of military officers seized power in the Central African country, annulling the results of Saturday’s election and placing President Ali Bongo under house arrest.

The coup came after the Gabonese Election Center announced official results that showed Bongo winning a third term with 64.27% of the vote.

Bongo has been in power for almost a decade. His father, Omar Bongo, assumed the presidency in 1967 and ended with his death in 2009 in Spain.

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