Gabon: Pascaline Bongo Faces Prison Term in Alleged Corruption Case

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Pascaline Bongo

The former Gabonese minister, Pascaline Bongo, is under prosecution for alleged passive corruption involving foreign agents. Accused of leveraging her influence to assist the French company Egis in securing public contracts in exchange for 8 million euros, she now faces the prospect of a substantial prison sentence.

Following a four-day trial, the prosecution’s requisitions sent shockwaves through the courtroom. Terms such as “fictitious contract,” “concealment,” and “violation of economic public order” were vehemently employed by the prosecutor, who denounced what he termed a “corruption pact” between Pascaline Bongo and Egis Route. Alleging misuse of her position to trade her powers, the prosecutor stated, “She failed in her duties of integrity and probity attached to her role,” and sought a three-year prison term, with one year to be served and a 150,000 euro fine against Pascaline Bongo.

In a strong rebuttal, defense attorney Me Labrousse asserted, “One word comes to mind: politics!” He decried what he viewed as “blindness” and asserted the absence of evidence in the case. All ten defense attorneys present pleaded for acquittal. Me Dreyfus-Schmidt, representing Pascaline Bongo, sharply criticized the investigators, labeling the accusations as “fictitious” and a “fabrication to try to sustain a case.” She pointed out the “accumulation of flaws and shortcomings” in the case and concluded, “I cannot imagine that the court will convict. If it does, it’s for reasons that are not legal or factual.”

The defense highlighted weaknesses in the case, emphasizing the relevance and sincerity of the Sift-Egis partnership. They argued that Pascaline Bongo sought a business transition, having lost political influence. Moreover, they emphasized the absence of material evidence of corruption or any monetary transactions.

The prosecutor also sought two to three years of suspended sentences for other defendants, including Franck Ping, son of former minister Jean Ping, and the three executives of Egis Route implicated in the case. Christian Laugier, the commercial director, expressed his shock at the severity of the proposed sentences, stating, “We have confidence in the French justice system. We haven’t hidden anything in this case. It’s a partnership between two companies looking to pool human resources to carry out a project. It stopped at the intention stage. There was no money flow, and when I saw the harshness of the sentences demanded by the PNF [National Financial Prosecutor’s Office], I was shocked.”

Each accused had the opportunity to speak. Pascaline Bongo simply thanked the court, noting that she had learned a lot from the French justice system. The judgment is expected on April 22.

All defense attorneys have pleaded for acquittal, leaving the fate of the case in the hands of the judge, who will render a decision on April 22.

Soukaina Sghir

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