the fall of Sylvia Bongo, charged with “money laundering”

the fall of Sylvia Bongo, charged with “money laundering”

2023-09-29 17:18:00

First lady of the heart for some. Woman of formidable power for others. A month after the coup d’état which brought down Ali Bongo Ondimba, his wife, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, was charged in particular with “money laundering” and kept under house arrest. The army accused the former first lady and one of her sons of having “manipulated” the head of state.

Indeed, Noureddine Bongo Valentin is already indicted and imprisoned in particular for “corruption” and “embezzlement of public funds”, with several former young members of the presidential cabinet and two former ministers.

Following these charges, “Ms. Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin appeared on Thursday, September 28 before the investigating judge who charged her with money laundering, receiving stolen property, forgery and use of forged documents. […] before house arrest is ordered,” announced Libreville public prosecutor André Patrick Roponat on Friday.

The fall of the Bongo clan

On the night of August 30, less than an hour after the announcement of the re-election of Ali Bongo Ondimba, the army, citing obvious fraud, “put an end to the regime”, also accused of massive corruption. General Brice Oligui Nguema, leader of the putsch, was proclaimed president of the Transition two days later.

A month later, he remains adored as on the first day of his putsch by the vast majority of the population and the political class who applaud the military for having “liberated” them from 55 years of “Bongo dynasty”. Ali was elected in 2009 following the death of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled the country for more than 41 years.

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Ali Bongo was placed under house arrest on the day of the putsch but declared free to move around a week later. The military seemed to quickly exonerate him, considering that he had been “manipulated”, in particular by his wife and their son Noureddine after a serious stroke in 2018. Since then, Mr. Bongo, whom President Oligui says he is “free” to follow his treatment abroad, preferred to stay at home in Gabon, according to the new power.

The very night of the putsch, Noureddine Bongo and several of his young relatives and those close to the former first lady within the presidential cabinet were arrested and shown at the foot of countless trunks, suitcases and bags overflowing with bank notes for hundreds of millions of euros seized from their homes.

Clarification on his situation

Sylvia Bongo Valentin had been placed under house arrest but isolated from her husband. His French lawyers had denounced a “hostage-taking” and filed a complaint in Paris for “arbitrary confinement”.

“No one is above the law, but the law must be respected for everyone. What do we think of a justice system that keeps people in absolute secrecy for weeks before indicting them, without having access to a defense? » asked one of his lawyers, Me François Zimeray, on Friday to AFP. “Investigations are continuing and other arrests and charges are being considered,” warned prosecutor Roponat.

Noureddine and nine members, the “Young Team”, were finally indicted three weeks after their arrest and six others imprisoned with him, notably for “corruption, embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, criminal conspiracy, forgery of the president’s signature of the Republic and disruption of electoral operations”.

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Two former ministers (Oil and Public Works), close to Noureddine, were also imprisoned.

“The first lady and Noureddine wasted Ali Bongo’s power,” General Oligui asserted on September 18 before the Republican Guard. “Because since his stroke, they forged the president’s signature, they gave orders in his place,” in addition to “money laundering and corruption.” “Who ruled the country then? » he asked himself.

Daughter of a French insurer, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin (whose family moved to Gabon when she was eleven) met her husband in 1988. Together, they raised four children: Malika (born from the president’s first marriage ), Noureddine, Jalil and Bilal, an orphan adopted in Morocco in 2003. She created the Sylvia-Bongo-Ondimba Foundation in 2011, whose main missions revolve around improving access to health and women’s rights. , youth or the integration of disabled people.

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