France: Congo President’s Daughter Charged With Money Laundering

Published: 26 June 2017

Neuilly-sur-Seine - Collège Sainte-Croix

Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris (Photo: AntonyB, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Vanja Lakic

French authorities charged the daughter and son-in-law of Congo’s President with “money laundering and misuse of public funds,” as part of a larger investigation into the assets of three African presidential families, media reported Sunday.

Julienne Sassou Nguesso, 50, and her husband, Guy Johnson, 53, are under investigation for purchasing a three million euros (US$ 3.4 million) home in 2006 in the Neuilly-sur-Seine, a ritzy Paris suburb.

Investigators believe the money might have come through an offshore company in the Seychelles and with the proceeds of shares Julienne Sassou Nguesso owned in a telecommunications company tied to "corruption operations," judicial sources told AFP.

Between 2007 and 2011, the couple spent 5.34 million euros (US$ 5.97 million) to renovate the seven-bedroom house with an indoor pool. This raised the total investment into the property to nearly 10 million euros (US$ 11.2 million).

When the French finance ministry’s intelligence unit first alerted authorities about possible misconduct, investigators found that millions of dollars of state money had been funneled since 2007 from Brazzaville, the capital of Congo, to offshore accounts.

The money is believed to have funded the lavish lifestyles of presidential families in Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

"This affair that has been going on for 10 years will be dismissed through totally legal procedures," Jean-Marie Viala, Congo’s President’s lawyer, told AFP.

Johnson is also under investigation for a 19 million euro (US$ 21 million) mansion that was bought by a real estate company in 2007, in another posh area of Paris, when he was the asset manager.

The investigation which began in 2010, has ensnared several members of African ruling families including the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president who went on trial on June 19 for allegedly embezzling more than US$ 112 million of state money to fund a lavish lifestyle in Paris.