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Gabon ousted president’s wife charged with ‘money laundering’

The wife of Gabon’s ousted president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, has been charged with “money laundering” and other offences, the public prosecutor said on Friday, a month after a coup toppled her husband.

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, who is Franco-Gabonese, and one of the couple’s sons have been accused by the coup leader of having pulled the strings in the oil-rich country.

Their eldest son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has already been charged with corruption and embezzling public funds with several former cabinet members and two ex-ministers.

Sylvia Bongo was charged by an investigating judge on Thursday and ordered to remain under house arrest, Andre Patrick Roponat announced on state TV channels.

She also faces other charges including concealment and forgery, he said.

Sylvia Bongo has been under house arrest in the capital Libreville since the coup on August 30.

She has been isolated from her husband and her French lawyers have filed a complaint in Paris against what they said “appears to be a hostage-taking”.

Bongo, 64, who had ruled the 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.

Ali Bongo was elected after his father Omar died in 2009 after nearly 42 years in power.

– Corruption –

Noureddin Bongo Valentin was indicted earlier this month and placed in provisional detention for alleged corruption.

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 had told a press conference.

Seven including Noureddin Bongo were detained.

Two former ministers – for oil and public works – have also been detained.

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 a week after the coup.

In October 2018, Bongo suffered a stroke that sidelined him for 10 months.

Oligui, in a speech to the Republican Guard this month, accused the former “First Lady” and Noureddin of having “squandered” the president’s power.

“Because since his stroke, they have falsified the signature of the president, they gave orders in his place,” he said.

Immediately after the coup, Oligui 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”.