Tuesday, November 09, 2010

French NGOs win historic ruling on ill-gotten gains

France's supreme court has just ruled in favour of the non-governmental organisations Transparency International France and Sherpa concerning the "biens mal acquis" (or ill-gotten gains) of the family members of Presidents Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

An investigating magistrate will now be assigned to investigate the conditions surrounding the acquisition of a number of bank accounts and real estate holdings of these individuals. As Transparency International notes today:
This information should also help shed light on the role played by various intermediaries in facilitating the operations under investigation.
Good news, and congratulations to these organisations for their tenacity in the face of determined efforts to stop them. For all its many faults, the French judicial system does have a superb institution in the investigating magistrate, whose role is to investigate deeply a matter in as (theoretically) impartial a manner as possible.

TI-France continues on the historic nature of this ruling:
"For the first time in France, the judicial actions of an anti-corruption association, in the name of those whose interests it is mandated to defend, has been admitted in a court of law."
A long road lies ahead, of course. The original suit was lodged in May 2009 by Transparence-International (France) and Mr. Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa, a Gabonese citizen, and was ruled admissible by the Dean of investigating magistrates. The decision was overturned on appeal, and went to the supreme court, which has now ruled in the NGOs' favour. Congratulations to all concerned.

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