In an investigation into possible “ill-gotten gains,” French prosecutors announced on friday that they had taken possession of a home in the Paris suburbs connected to Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso son of the president of the Republic of the Congo.
Following a revelation by the investigative news website Mediapart, the office of the National Financial Prosecutor (PNF) confirmed to AFP that the property in affluent Neuilly-sur-Seine connected to Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso “was confiscated in June.”
“Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso has not yet been charged,” they continued.
Citing police records, Mediapart stated that Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso and his family “absolutely” resided in the townhouse, which was purchased in 2009 for 5.2 million euros before being renovated for an additional 5.4 million.
The site said, citing an investigation by the OCRGDF major financial crimes unit, “The Congolese minister’s chief of protocol, believed to be one of Sassou Nguesso’s “strawmen,” is one of the owners of the property holding company that owns the building.”
Sassou Nguesso’s attorney Jean-Jacques Neuer remarked, “I’m horrified that France, with its past as a colonial and slave-holding great power, is now going to put guilt at the feet of African leaders.”
He said, “Many very ill-gotten gains belonging to Africans are in French hands.”
The probe into his client, according to Neuer, was “political and not judicial.”
Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a former paratrooper who initially came to power in the country in 1979, came under scrutiny by Paris anti-corruption prosecutors in 2007 after receiving a complaint from watchdogs.
It is thought that he and his family, together with the powerful Bongo family in Gabon, misappropriated public funds to build enormous real estate empires in France.
Denis Christel, the son of Sassou Nguesso, is mentioned multiple times in the case files. A PNF document from 2019 singles him out for his “exorbitant lifestyle.”
“The amount of property seized is at first glance very limited compared to the flood of embezzlement, but Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso is a first-rank player,” said William Bourdon, a lawyer representing corruption watchdog Transparency International France, a civil plaintiff in the case.
“Given the weight of evidence, his denials are pathetic and insulting to the judges and to France,” he added.
Since 2017, at least five members of the Nguesso family have caught the attention of investigators.
The top court in France this week upheld the conviction of Bashar al-uncle Assad’s using a new statute on ill-gotten gains that was passed last year.
The Court of Cassation upheld the confiscation of a 90 million euro property empire and the four-year prison term for 85-year-old Rifaat al-Assad, which he is unlikely to serve given his age and poor health.
In order to distinguish it from its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo is often known as Congo-Brazzaville.