Africa

Son of Congo president not charged in France: lawyer

A son of Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has not been charged in a French probe into the assets in France of the families of several African leaders, his lawyer said on Friday, although his name has been cited in the investigation.

A lawyer in the case had on February 7 told AFP that the president’s son, Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, had been charged in the case by investigating magistrates.

“Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso – contrary to what has been reported – has never been charged in this case,” his lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer said in a statement, denouncing a campaign of “destabilisation”.

He said that his client had never been questioned by an investigating magistrate and none of his assets had ever been seized by the French judicial authorities.

The claim he had been charged was published on February 7 by the weekly magazine Challenges and was then repeated by a lawyer with access to the case contacted later in the day by AFP.

France’s national financial prosecutors (PNF) on Friday however confirmed the statement by Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso’s lawyer that his client had not been charged.

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, whose father has ruled Congo for 36 years, was until 2016 the number of the powerful national oil company.

French prosecutors have been investigating the families of several African leaders in a campaign which campaigners hope signals a new willingness of French authorities to tackle money laundering.

In December 2017, the PNF had asked the magistrates to investigate the “abnormal” lifestyle of Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso and his partner and how they racked up a four-million-euro ($4.34-million) hotel bill.

The probe has also been looking at families of late Gabonese leader Omar Bongo and of Equatorial Guinea’s leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The latter’s son, Teodorin Obiang, was this week handed handed a 30-million-euro fine by a Paris court on top of a suspended jail term for embezzling public funds.

Five members of the Nguesso family have been charged since 2017: a daughter of the president and her husband – Julienne Sassou Nguesso and Guy Johnson – as well as two nephews and another relative.

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