The Republic of the Congo remains the fourth oil-producing country in Africa. It has been through many civil wars and a coup in June 1997 where about 400.000 Congolese died. After revising the constitution in October 2015 and conducting a marred election in March 2016, the old self-servant kleptocrat, Sassou Nguesso, unleashed brutal military repression to stay in power. Sassou-Nguesso further solidified his power with his fifth and most recent election victory in March of this year, which also resulted in the appointment of his son to a government role.
With this new report, Congolese civil-society organization #Sassoufit with the support of C4ADS delivers to the anti-corruption community a necessary insight into Congo Brazzaville kleptocracy. It is therefore estimated that more than $32 million in real-estate assets, owned by eleven politically exposed persons, have been traced.
BRAZZAVILLE / PARIS / WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 – A xenophobic minister specializing in electoral rigging and bloody repression, a war criminal police chief wanted for crimes against humanity, one of the men who started the war of June 5, 1997, the daughter-in-law, and her lover, the grand-niece this and the wives of the son, a telecoms cartel run by a gun carrier of the daughters of the old tyrant, all with luxury goods in Dubai, Neuilly-Sur-Seine or Miami, these are the main revelations provided by this report produced by Sassoufit with support from C4ADS.
For several months using open sources, including C4ADS’s Seamless Horizons data platform, a proprietary database of publicly available corporate registry information, property records, and related datasets, we were capable of tracking down the assets of the Nguesso family and those around the world. Far from being exhaustive, the list of personalities pinned merely reveals the form of industrial looting of the Republic of Congo. It is an autopsy of what the Canadian Federal Judge Jocelyne Gagné, in her judgment against Wilfried Sassou Nguesso, rightly called a criminal organization.
Jean-François Ndengue and family in Neuilly-Sur-Seine buy a 600 000 € property from Olga Johnson Dumonteil, the Paris Councilor of the 17th Arrondissement and Director General of Energy for Africa for Jean-Louis Borloo; the daughter of the “special”, Jean Dominique Okemba offers a foothold in Dubai while her husband does business with the son of the Togolese dictator Eyadema; some with impunity, the montages are lazy and for a persevering eye, they directly offer a deep insight into the mechanics of the capture of the Congolese state.
For illustration, Cendrine Sassou Nguesso, patron of the Investment Agency (API) created, shortly after her appointment, two companies in Dubai, CENSASS CAPITAL (meaning CENdrine SASSou Capital) and Kimikia General Trading (meaning Kim and IKIA, IKIA as the name of her late aunt, also worn by her half-sister Claudia Ikia Sassou Nguesso) to make… investment. This conflict of interest questions Marcus Kissa, Coordinator of the Sassoufit Collective:
“The reasons for Congo’s economic bankruptcy are before our eyes. This was neither the fall in the price of oil in 2014 nor the health crisis we are going through, but rather methodical plunder of the country’s resources, a capture of the state by a clan.” Speaking of potential conflict of interest, the coordinator of Sassoufit adds: “the sister Cendrine Sassou Nguesso is responsible for the investment promotion agency, the half-brother Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso, Minister of Public-Private partnerships. In conclusion, no investment can come into the country without the Nguesso seizing the lion’s share. Worse, it is thoroughly recommended, if you want to succeed, treat yourself to the sensational services of CENSASS CAPITAL! ”
“The reasons for Congo’s economic bankruptcy are before our eyes. This was neither the fall in the price of oil in 2014 nor the health crisis we are going through, but rather methodical plunder of the country’s resources, a capture of the state by a clan.” – Marcus Kissa, Sassoufit CoordinatorTweet
Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso and his wives have also set their sights on Dubai. The pressure of legal proceedings and foreclosures in Paris, Geneva, Milan, Lisbon, New York, and Miami? No doubts. He would have acquired with his first wife Danièle Mboussou Ognanosso an apartment valued at $1 million in the luxurious Pentominium Building under construction. His other wife Nathalie Boumba Pembé is no exception. After quickly selling her assets in Florida between September and October 2020, this neighbor of the telecommunications regulatory agency ARCPE drops off her bags down at the Yes Business Center Tower Office in Dubai from where she dispatches day-to-day business.
Following the example of her brother by marriage, Blandine Malila Lumandé, daughter and chief of staff of Madame Sassou Nguesso, advisor on humanitarian issues to her stepfather Denis Sassou Nguesso unloads her luggage in the Persian Gulf Emirate with her lover Steve Loemba.
Blandine and Steve respectively own a Four-bedroom and four-bathroom villa in Dubai in a luxury community called Arabian Ranches for an estimated value of 1.9 million $ and a five-bed and five-bath villa in Dubai in the Emirate Hills. Similar-sized homes in Emirate Hills are valued at a low estimation of nearly $6 million.
The partner and nominee of Wilfried and Edgar Sassou Nguesso, Brice Voltaire Obami-Etou is not left out: Obami- Etou has liquidated his assets in Miami to acquire a four-bedroom and four-bathroom villa in Dubai with an estimated value of $1.3 million. This sudden love for the warmth of the Arabian Peninsula is not without legal ulterior motives:
“It is therefore estimated that more than $32 million in real-estate assets have been traced,” Says Andrea Ngombet, founder and director of the Anti-kleptocracy strategy of the Sassoufit collective. « It appears to have marked 2014 as a switch to the United Arab Emirates of the Congolese nomenclature’s interests. We can witness the dissuasive effect of the so-called ill-gotten legal proceedings, in particular, the proceedings in Switzerland against Gunvor and in San Marino against Chironi. Dubai took over from the historic tax havens where this criminal organization operated. » Andrea explains.
« It appears to have marked 2014 as a switch to the United Arab Emirates of the Congolese nomenclature’s interests. » – Andrea Ngombet, founder of SassoufitTweet
Rather than simply a list of goods, the Assets Abound report also reveals the existence of a « Telecommunication’s cartel » headed by Jean-Bruno Obambi, boss among others of Azur Telecom and renowned bearer of the Sassou Nguesso family’s interests in this economic sector.
Indeed, through a complex network of shell companies, Jean Bruno Obambi, his son Koumou-Obambi, Beston TSHINSELE the boss of Airtel Congo, and Romeo Abdo the boss of MTB Investments Holdings, ensure a monopoly on telecoms in Central Africa. The monopoly is so lucrative that Obambi owned two properties in Miami that he sold in 2018 for the combined sum of $840,000 and then relocated his interests in Dubai with his company Bintel Group. But, up until now, Central Africa has possessed one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world with prohibitive access costs.
Until February 2021, Obambi was also listed as a director of three Cypriot companies alongside Abdo Romeo Abdo, a Lebanese businessman whose business ventures have included significant construction and real-estate projects in Belarus and Nepal.
In July 2021, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported that Abdo had purchased Cypriot company MTB Investments Holdings, the majority shareholder of MTBank, from the family of Belarusian oligarch Aliaksei Aleksin, days before Aleksin was hit by EU sanctions for his alleged role in the arrest of a dissident journalist.
But the golden medal for voracity goes to Raymond Zephirin Mboulou, xenophobic interior minister and former chief of staff to the President. The C4ADS Seamless Horizons data platform indicates Zéphirin Mboulou holds five properties in Dubai. Two of these appear to be five-bedroom villas in Arabian Ranches, the luxury residential development where Blandine Malila Lumande also allegedly owns a four-bedroom home (available homes are currently priced anywhere between $1.1 to $1.9 million.) and three other properties included a three-bedroom apartment in a luxury tower still under construction in Harbor Point Tower 2 price range between $1.1 to $2.5 million.
Congolese organized crime recognizes no borders or limits. This report only scratches the surface of a bottomless backwater. Republic of Congo President Sassou-Nguesso’s grip on power in the natural resource-rich country has endured decades.
By identifying these assets, the anti-corruption community will acquire the necessary insight to combat the kleptocrat state and hold those who abuse their power accountable for corrupt activity.