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French court halts Africa corruption probe

Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 20:56

Paris: A French court halted an inquiry on Thursday into the multi-million dollar property portfolios allegedly held in France by the leaders of some of Africa`s poorest countries.
The Paris appeals court ruled that anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International could not in itself bring a complaint against the Presidents of Gabon, Congo and
Equatorial Guinea.

In May, a magistrate had agreed to hear the case, in which campaigners alleged that between them the leaders own USD 236 million worth of real estate in France, allegedly paid for with embezzled public funds.

But French state prosecutors refused to take up the case and today appeals judge Francoise Desset ruled that since Transparency International had not itself lost out it could not make a complaint.

"Today it`s champagne all round for the gang of Franco-African crooks that organise and profit from the looting of African public funds," complained Transparency International`s lawyer William Bourdon.

Campaigners had hoped to force France to seize luxury homes they allege are owned by presidents Ali Bongo of Gabon, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.

Obiang`s lawyer Olivier Pardo welcomed the court`s ruling which he said "showed that the manipulation of French justice had not worked" and vowed to bring a slander suit against Transparency.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 20:56

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