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French properties of Omar Bongo's family seized by court

media Archival photo of Albert Bongo (the future Omar Bongo and president of Gabon) at a dinner at France's Elysee Palace Archives nationales

French judges probing the source of money spent on luxury homes and mansions in the country by Gabon's former president Omar Bongo have seized properties belonging to his family, judicial sources revealed Friday.

A villa in Nice on France's plush Cote d'Azur, as well as a Paris mansion located in the city's chic 16th arrondissement are among the properties owned by SCI Emeraude, the property company that was seized according to several sources.

The probe is also scrutinising the affairs of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Congo-Brazzaville's President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The investigation was launched in December 2010 to determine whether the three long-serving African leaders used corrupt means to acquire expensive properties in France.

Omar Bongo was the president of Gabon, now the continent’s fourth-largest oil producer, for 41 years until his death in 2009.

Though Bongo fathered dozens of children, he designated two leading heirs, namely the daughter who was widely believed to his favourite, Pascaline Bongo, and his son and current President, the luxury-car loving Ali Bongo.

Omar Bongo's vast fortune, estimated to be worth at least hundreds of millions of euros in the form of secret bank accounts in Monaco and elsewhere, has sparked a battle among his family, splitting them into rival factions. His estate is believed to include scores of luxury villas and mansions around the world, as well as planes, boats, art and huge stakes in Gabon’s key industries.

- with AFP

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