Henry Samuel, Telegraph (London), December 16, 2013
The President of the Republic of Congo spent 1.18 million euros on suits and shirts over six years as part of 60 million euros he and his family pumped into luxury items and property in France, French investigators find as part of probe into African leaders.
Judges have been inquiring into the source of money spent in France by Denis Sassou Nguesso and his family as part of a widening investigation into the misuse of funds by African leaders.
After seizing a string of luxury assets belonging to the son of president Obiang this year and issuing an international warrant for his arrest, French investigators have now turned their attentions to Mr Sassou-Nguesso and his extended family.
In drawing up a list of assets, they were intrigued to discover that Mr Sassou-Nguesso spent 1.18 million euros between 2005 and 2011 on shirts and suits at the Pape boutique in Paris’ select 7th arrondissement. He paid via wire transfers from a Swiss bank account.
In the same period, his son, Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso forked out almost 474,000 euros almost entirely on shirts. “He changes shirts three or four times a day and boasts that he never washes them and uses them as Kleenexes,” a former aide to the presidential clan is cited as telling police by Libération newspaper.
The son, who is also director general upstream of Congo’s national petrol company, SNPC, is the proud owner of at least seven cars in Paris, including a Porsche Cayenne, a Maserati and a Bentley coupé, while another clothes bill for jewel-studded cufflinks and shirts comes to 257,000 euros.
Police came up across around 20 luxury properties belonging to the Sassou-Nguesso family in the most chic of Paris districts. The son, for example, spent eight million euros on renovating a Parisian flat and a mansion in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the western suburb, in the style of “Napoleon Empire”.
In all, police believe the Sassou-Nguesso family spent around 60 million euros on properties and luxury items.
Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, a lawyer acting for Congo-Brazzaville, threatened France with legal action, saying : “The legal procedure pursued by France is illegal with regard to international law as French courts have no right to probe the public accounts of a foreign sovereign state.”
“Other petrol state leaders and their relatives spend far greater sums in France without being troubled,” he added.
“After Guinea, next year will be the year of Sassou and Bongo,” said William Bourdon, lawyer for Transparency International, an anti-corruption campaign group which alleges the leaders and their relatives spent state funds from their countries on lavish purchases in France.
The French probe was initiated following a complaint by Sherpa, another NGO, in 2007.
Detectives have already listed more than 40 properties belonging to the family of the late Mr Bongo, including two multimillion-pound villas in Nice.
In June, a Paris appeals court upheld the application of an international arrest warrant for Teodorin Obiang Mangue on money laundering charges.
The court also upheld a decision to seize the 42-year old playboy’s pied à terre at 42 Avenue Foch, estimated to be worth up to 150 million euros. The building contains a disco, cinema, steam baths, sauna, hair salon, gold- and jewel-encrusted taps, lift and pink marble dining room with coral pillars and 20-yard glass table.
Fraud squad officers carted off a Rodin statue, 300 bottles of of chateau Petrus wine worth 2.1 million euros and 18.5 million euros worth of art works bought from the 2009 sale of Yves Saint Laurent’s private collection.
The furniture alone, mostly collector’s items, is estimated to be worth 40 million euros.
“There will be no immunity for those who pillage the resources of their country,” Mr Bourdon told Libération.