Pascaline Bongo, eldest daughter of the late Gabonese President Omar Bongo and sister of deposed President Ali Bongo, appears from Monday January 29 before the Paris Criminal Court on suspicion of corruption in Gabon in 2010 and 2011. Her father’s chief of staff until her death in 2009, then collaborator of her brother Ali, overthrown by a coup in August 2023, Ms. Bongo, 67, is suspected of having agreed to intervene in favor of the French company Egis Route in the award of public contracts against the promise of 8 million euros.

Prosecuted for passive bribery of a foreign public official, she was tried with the company and five other defendants. “My client will be there. She does not fear French justice,” her lawyer, Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt, told AFP. Pascaline Bongo, who disputes the facts, “has not been in contact with anyone, there is no contract signed, no deal has been concluded and nothing in the file allows us to say that there was a remittance of money,” maintains Mr. Dreyfus-Schmidt.

“Nothing holds up in this case, the problem of territorial jurisdiction, the problems of prescription, the problems of legal qualification… All that to manage to send people before a court for nothing”, insists the lawyer, who regrets “an attraction very strong French justice for the name Bongo”.

According to the daily Libération which revealed the affair, Ms. Bongo would have accepted a “fictitious partnership” so that Egis would participate in the creation of the National Agency for Major Works of Gabon via a public consulting contract. This structure, created by Ali Bongo after his arrival at the head of Gabon, supervised infrastructure projects (roads, stadiums) and public real estate projects.

“Ill-gotten gains”

On the dock alongside Pascaline Bongo, Egis Route, two of its former executives and its commercial director, Christian Laugier, formerly in charge of Africa activities and former general manager of the group. The three men are suspected of having offered Ms. Bongo a kickback of 8 million euros in exchange for a contract.

A French lawyer, Me Danyèle Palazo-Gauthier, and the Gabonese businessman Franck Ping, son of the former minister and ex-president of the African Union commission (2008-2012) Jean Ping, are appearing for complicity passive bribery of a foreign public official.

The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation in 2019 after the discovery of “curious exchanges, emails and documents evoking the Egis affair”, according to Libération, during a search of Ms. Palazao-Gauthier’s Paris office in the framework of the so-called “ill-gotten gains” file.

In this case, Parisian judges have been looking for more than fifteen years into suspicions of embezzlement of public funds which allowed the families of Presidents Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Congo-Brazzaville) and Bongo to build up considerable real estate and furniture assets. In France. In total, ten descendants of the wealthy Gabonese patriarch (president from 1967 until his death in 2009) have been indicted since March 2022. Former Miss France Sonia Rolland and the BNP bank are also indicted in the section Gabonese “ill-gotten gains”.

In mid-January, the Paris Court of Appeal rejected the appeals of three of the Bongo children, including that of Pascaline Bongo, against their indictment in this case. In August and again in December 2023, around ten properties were seized in upscale neighborhoods of Paris, in Provence or on the Côte d’Azur, for a total value estimated at around 8 million euros.

These properties are suspected of having been acquired using money from “Françafrique”, this system of corruption, political co-optation and commercial preserves between Paris and its former African colonies, particularly illustrated by the “Elf affair”. In France. In total, around €70 million in “ill-gotten gains” have been seized to date in this case. Pascaline Bongo’s trial is scheduled until Thursday.