Son of ousted Gabon leader held in corruption caseWed, 20 Sep 2023 14:34:11 GMT

Three weeks after Ali Bongo Ondimba was overthrown in a coup, one of his sons and several allies of the ousted Gabon president have been charged with corruption and placed in custody, the state prosecutor said Wednesday.Bongo’s eldest son Noureddin Bongo Valentin and former presidential spokesman Jessye Ella Ekogha were indicted on Tuesday and placed in provisional detention for alleged corruption, Libreville prosecutor Andre-Patrick Roponat told AFP.In all, 10 people were indicted on charges ranging from electoral college operational issues, counterfeiting and use of the seals of the republic, to corruption, embezzlement of public funds and money laundering, Roponat told a press conference.Seven have been detained, he added.Bongo, 64, who had ruled the oil-rich central African country since 2009, was overthrown by military leaders on August 30, moments after being proclaimed the winner in a presidential election.The result was branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who have also accused his regime of widespread corruption and bad governance.On the day of the coup, soldiers arrested Bongo Valentin and a number of senior cabinet officials.National TV showed rolling images of the deposed president’s son and other arrested officials in front of suitcases filled with cash allegedly seized from their homes.Bongo’s wife Sylvia Bongo Valentin is under house arrest in the capital Libreville “for her protection”, according to authorities. One of her laywers said on Wednesday that she was being kept “incommunicado outside any legal framework”.”This situation is unjustifiable and incompatible with the rule of law,” Paris-based Francois Zimeray told AFP.”We have filed a complaint against those responsible for what appears to be a hostage-taking.”Bongo, who was himself under house arrest for several days after the coup, is “free to move around” and go abroad, Gabon’s new military ruler General Brice Oligui Nguema said on September 6.- Corruption -Oligui has been sworn in as interim president after spearheading the coup that ended a half-century of rule by the Bongo family.He has promised to hold “free, transparent and credible elections” to restore civilian rule but has not given a timeframe.The new strongman also lost no time in warning that corruption would no longer be tolerated.Immediately after the coup, he summoned around 200 Gabonese business leaders to a meeting, whom he lectured on corruption.Broadcast on state television, he sternly warned business leaders against “over-billing” and told them to commit to the “development of the country”.He also vowed to make sure the overcharged money “comes back to the state”.Ali Bongo took over when his father Omar died in 2009 after nearly 42 years in power. In 2016, French investigators zeroed in on properties owned by Omar Bongo’s family in France.They suspected several of his relatives had knowingly benefitted from a fraudulently acquired real-estate empire worth at least 85 million euros ($87 million).Ten of Omar Bongo’s 54 children have been charged with allegedly concealing the misappropriation of public funds, a Paris-based legal source has told AFP.As a sitting head of state, Ali Bongo had immunity.