Dec 30



Corruption in Gabon
Power: the best way to rob a bank in Africa

CABLE ID: 215456
Date: 2009-07-07 12:58:00
Origin: 09YAOUNDE608
Source: Embassy Yaounde
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL




1. (C) Summary. Senior Gabonese officials in the Bank of
Central African States (BEAC) colluded to embezzle more
than 18.3 billion CFA (about $36 million) from the pooled
reserves of the six states of the Central African Economic
and Monetary Community (CEMAC) over the past five years,
according to a senior Embassy contact at the bank. In a
June 12 meeting with Poloff, the source, a senior
third-country national, said BEAC discovered the crime
during internal audits conducted in the wake of revelations
that Gabonese national and BEAC Governor Philip Andzembe
had covertly placed 500 million Euros in high-risk
investmentQwith French bank Societe Generale (reftel).
According to the Embassy source, senior Gabonese political
leadership, including the late President Omar Bongo and his
son, Defense Minister and presidential hopeful, Ali Bongo
benefitted from the embezzlement. The source said Gabonese
officials used the proceeds for their own enrichment and,
at Bongo’s direction, funneled funds to French political
parties, including in support of French President
Nicholas Sarkozy. End summary.

Audit Reveals Deeper Issues

2. (C) The BEAC official asked Poloff [Political Oficer] to meet on June 12 to discuss “a sensitive issue that I want the U.S. to hear
about from me, before it appears in the media.” Recalling
the political tensions created by the revelation that BEAC
Governor and Gabonese national Philip Andzembe had, in
violation of BEAC regulations and unbeknownst to the BEAC
board, placed 500 million euro of BEAC deposits in a
high-risk investment with French bank Societe Generale
(Reftel), the BEAC official said the consequent review of
BEAC’s accounts had revealed even broader and more brazen
malfeasance linked to a hierarchy of Gabonese officials
throughout BEAC. (Note: Under the agreement that created
BEAC in 1972 it was decided that, in light of their relative
economic predominance in the region, Cameroon would host
BEAC’s headquarters while Gabon would maintain exclusive
power to appoint the BEAC Governor. For more information
on how the politics of oil affected the region and BEAC
see reftel. End note.)

The Easy Way to Rob a Bank

3. (C) The BEAC official explained that Gabonese
President Bongo’s control of BEAC was more extensive than
the Governor’s office; the Director of Accounting, the
Deputy Director of Accounting, the officials overseeing
international wire transfers, and the accountant in BEAC’s
Paris branch have all been Gabonese nationals appointed by
Bongo. Working in concert, these officials were able to
subvert BEAC’s safeguards. The Paris accountant was, until
recently, Gabonese national Armand Brice Nzamba, who is a
close personal friend of Ali Bongo, according to Post’s
contact at BEAC

. The BEAC official said BEAC had contacted
the Paris “financial police” who were investigating Nzamba
until he fled France earlier this year. Gabonese national
Maurice Moutsinga served as the Director of Accounting in
BEAC Headquarters for 20 years until his retirement in

4. (C) The embezzlement moved through three main
Channels, according to the official:

–in checks made out in the names of the BEAC officials
themselves; BEAC’s investigations have already tracked 18.3
billion CFA ($36.6 million) that were embezzled in checks
made out in the name of Gabonese officials. As a result,
Nzamba accumulated personal wealth of more than of more 1
billion CFA ($2 million) on an annual salary of about

–in checks made payable to shell companies; the main
recipients were Papieterie Classique and Tour 55 in France
and Chaiab in Morocco, and;

–in checks made out to Gabonese politicians, including the
wife of Leon Mebiane, who was Gabon’s Prime Minister from

Did French Politicians Benefit?

YAOUNDE 00000608 002 OF 002

5. (C) Asked what the officials did with the stolen
funds, the BEAC official responded, “sometimes they kept it
for themselves, sometimes they funneled it to French
political parties.” Asked who received the funds, the
official responded, “both sides, but mostly the right;
especially Chirac and including Sarkozy.”

The BEAC official said “Bongo was France’s favorite President in
Africa,” and “this is classic France Afrique.” He said
technocrats from the French Treasury were relatively
progressive in encouraging the francophone governments to
be more autonomous, but that the Banque de France
continued to exert an outsized influence.

CEMAC Presidency’s React

6. (C) The BEAC official said the CEMAC Heads of State
were understandably upset to learn about the deeper
governance problems at BEAC. In a January 2009 meeting to
discuss Anzembe’s deal with Societe Generale, [Cameroon President Paul] Biya had called for Andzembe’s immediate dismissal. According to the official, Biya pounded the table during a recent meeting with his CEMAC counterparts and asked, in reference to his own anti-corruption campaign, “Don’t you read the press? We throw people like this in jail in my country!”

Equato-Guinean President Obiang, long-frustrated that his
deposits at BEAC exceeded his influence in the institution,
was more “patient,” calling for audits because, according
to the BEAC official, “he knew what the audits would find
[regarding Andzembe’s malfeasance] and that the resulting
pressure to institute a Presidency that rotates among the
member states would be inevitable.”

Audit of SG Placement Continues

7. (C) The Audit Committee includes representatives from
the six CEMAC economies plus a representative from the
French Treasury. The Heads of States agreed to conduct two
audits, a general review of internal accounts and a
specific investigation into Andzembe’s unauthorized
placement of funds at Societe Generale. According to the BEAC
official, the investigators have yet to understand fully the
details of the SG account. “Even SG tells us that they are
unable to determine the structure of the investment that
Anzembe made!” he marveled. The official theorized that SG
had used the BEAC funds to help “plug the hole” created by
the Kerviel rogue trader scandal, but that the financial
crisis had overwhelmed SG and swallowed BEAC’s funds.

Jail for Some;
End of Gabon’s Monopoly

8. (C) The BEAC official said his own government and
others would seek jail time for some of the officials, but
that there would be pressure to deal delicately with the
new Gabonese Government. Ali Bongo, he said, is close
personal friends with BEAC Governor Anzembe.
Institutionally, he predicted, these scandals will mean the
end of Gabon’s monopoly on the Governorship, which will now
rotate among the member states, and will lead to revisions to

Comment: A Governance Lesson Learned

9. (C) This tale of grand-scale corruption is
unfortunate, especially coming as it does during an
economic crisis that has depleted the region’s resources,
but the strong reaction from Biya and Obiang suggests
Gabon’s foul play might result in better management–more
transparency and autonomy–of BEAC’s resources. Our hope
is that CEMAC leaders internalize the lesson that secretive
management of public resources is a recipe for waste and
abuse and apply it to BEAC and their domestic
institutions. Post is unable to assess the veracity of the
allegation that French politicians benefitted from BEAC’s
loss, but it is the type of claim–that France encourages
and preys upon corrupt leaders in the region–that will
gain currency in popular opinion if, as the BEAC official
predicted, the story leaks to the press. End comment.


A confidant to the U.S. reveals the diversion of 28 million stocks of six countries to the clan of President of Gabon

JUAN CARLOS SANZ – Madrid – 28/12/2010

On his death in the Chiron Clinic in Barcelona , 8 June 2009, the Gabonese president Omar Bongo bequeathed to his relatives large sums deposited in banks in New York and Paris as well as luxury real estate in the French capital and the coast blue. The then Africa’s longest ruler accumulated such a fortune in 42 years at the helm of a small oil-rich country and an ally of France.

In early May 2009, a Paris judge had declared admissible the complaint against Bongo by Transparency International, an NGO specialized in combating corruption. Perhaps for that reason, Bongo preferred to be treated for his terminal illness in a Spanish clinic instead of being hospitalized in the former colonial metropolis (France).

Four days after the death of Bongo, a confidant unveiled before a U.S. diplomat at the embassy in Cameroon, the misappropriation of some $36 million (about EUR 28 million) from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), which being acquired by officials belonging to the circle of power by the president of Gabon and their family


The best way to steal

The confidential study submitted by Ambassador Janet Garvey to the State Department in Washington described in detail what is “the best way to rob a bank” controlled by a clan in an African country, Gabon. BEAC in the coffers of their reserves deposited together by Member States of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa: Gabon (which appoints the governor of the bank), Cameroon (headquarters of the bank), Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Guinea Equatorial.

A senior official of the BEAC is precisely who reveals to the political counselor of the US Embassy in Yaounde, the systematic theft of the reserves. The bank’s governor, the Gabonese Andzembe Philip had secretly placed 500 million euros in a hedge fund of the French bank, Société Générale. A subsequent audit uncovered financial hole caused by the diversion of funds.

The clan in power in Gabon, “including the late President Omar Bongo and his son Ali, the defense minister and presidential candidate, benefited from the misappropriation of funds,” according to the version of the confidential report by Ambassador Garvey.

The review of the accounts brought to light an extensive network of embezzlement related to the political hierarchy of Gabon,” the diplomatic cable said. President Bongo controlled not only the Governor of BEAC but also those responsible for accounting in Yaounde and Paris, and international transfers. “The internal investigation revealed that 36 million dollars were diverted through checks payable to senior officials or politicians in Gabon,” says the confidant.

Obiang called for “patience”

At the meeting of heads of state of the BEAC countries in January 2009, enquiries were made from the head of the bank’s governor, but the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang called for “patience.” Obiang considers its influence on the BEAC is not equal to the weight of the tanks of Equatorial Guinea. “Their goal is to introduce a rotating presidency of the [entity] in after confirmation of the (…) embezzlement, so as to end the monopoly of Gabon in the bank’s management,” said the confidant.

The same source notes to protected U.S. diplomats in Cameroon: Gabonese leaders used the diverted funds for personal enrichment and, as directed by Bongo, gave some money to French political parties, including President Nicolas Sarkozy. Bongo is the favorite African president of France.”

“This embassy is not able to verify the veracity of the accusation that French politicians benefited from the misappropriation of funds” is the limit of the writing of the ambassador in his final comment.

In August 2009, Ali Bongo of Gabon was elected president amid allegations of fraud from the opposition, and the Court of Appeal of Paris in October dismissed the complaint against his father by Transparency International.


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