Aid and the lavish lifestyles of African rulers

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) recommends an investigation by Transparency International and Sherpa into the misuse of aid by African rulers as reported in French newspaper, Libération. The report claims that three African presidents are using aid to fund extravagant lifestyles and buy luxury properties in Paris.  The French authorities are looking into these claims.

The report alleges that Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and his family own 16 luxury apartments and houses in Paris. French authorities have also found 111 bank accounts believed to be owned by the Sassou Nguesso family.

It is claimed much of this property portfolio has been purchased with foreign aid donations. This year the UK gave £133m in aid to DRC, a figure that set to rise to £258m by 2015.  The portfolio of Ali Bongo Ondimba, the president of Gabon, and his relatives includes 39 properties in Paris and links to 70 bank accounts. It is alleged 11 of these deposits are in the name of President Bongo.  Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea owns a six-story period building on the Avenue Foch worth £15m, used by members of his family on shopping trips to Paris. The Obiang family wealth also includes private jets and yachts.

The investigation has been marred by a series of set-backs, as the complaints were initially ruled inadmissible and libel threats were made by President Bongo.

An official case was reopened in November 2010 and according to a spokesperson for Transparency International France, no libel claims regarding the investigation have been made against the NGO to date.

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