Gabon: Paris Court to Rule On Corruption Charges Against Gabon Ex-President's Daughter

Pascaline Bongo, daughter of late Gabonese President Omar Bongo Odimba, arrives at court in Paris on 29 January 2024.

A Paris court is preparing to deliver its verdict on corruption charges against Pascaline Bongo, the daughter and chief of staff of Gabon's late president, Omar Bongo. She is accused of accepting millions of euros to help a French company secure contracts.

A verdict is expected on Monday in the trial of Pascaline Bongo - eldest daughter of Omar Bongo and sister of Ali Bongo, who replaced his father as head of state until he was ousted in a coup last year.

She is accused of helping French construction company Egis Route secure public contracts in Gabon between 2010 and 2011, in exchange for the promise of an €8 million payout.

The prosecution has called for Bongo to be sentenced to three years in prison, with two years suspended.

She denies the allegations.

Legal battle

First revealed by French newspaper Libération, the charges relate to contracts to consult on the creation of a national agency in charge of public infrastructure projects.

The agency was overseen by Ali Bongo, who became president when his father died in 2009.

Former executives at Egis Route, along with the company's commercial director, are also facing charges in connection with the case.

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

The trial opened at the end of January, with lawyers for Bongo arguing for the case to be thrown out on the grounds that it does not fall under French jurisdiction and that the alleged misdeeds were outside the statute of limitations.

They also claimed that evidence was seized illegally.

The judge nonetheless allowed hearings to continue, promising to address their objections in the final ruling.

Rare charges

France rarely pursues corruption charges against foreign officials or French companies operating overseas, according to Sara Brimbeuf of Transparency International France.

Speaking to RFI at the start of Bongo's trial, she said the anti-corruption watchdog would be following it closely to see if it could set a precedent for other potential prosecutions.

In 2010, the French judiciary opened a so-called "ill-gotten gains" enquiry into the origin of the fortune Omar Bongo used to buy assets in France.

Spanning 15 years, the probe resulted in the seizure of several properties and embezzlement charges against several of Bongo's children - though not Ali Bongo, who as a sitting president benefitted from immunity.

Family affair

Several members of the Bongo family have been charged in Gabon since Ali Bongo was forced from power in August 2023.

His wife, Sylvia Bongo Valentin, was charged the following month with money laundering, forgery and falsification of records and subsequently jailed.

Their son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has been charged with corruption and embezzling public funds.

He and several Bongo allies were arrested shortly after military leaders ousted the former leader on 30 August, moments after he was proclaimed the winner of a third presidential election.

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