BNP Charged for Laundering Ill-Gotten Assets Linked to Gabon

BNP Paribas SA was charged in France over accusations it laundered money stemming from corruption and embezzlement in a case over alleged ill-gotten assets linked to Gabon.

The charges were issued on May 11 as part of an investigation into French wealth of the family of the late Gabonese president, Omar Bongo, according to a lawyer for a plaintiff in the case. Agence France-Presse reported the charge earlier on Thursday.

BNP is suspected of having failed in its due diligence obligations because it didn’t report to authorities a suspicious bank account where tens of millions of euros were allegedly used by the Bongo family to acquire real estate in France, AFP reported.

French authorities have prosecuted several so-called ill-gotten gains cases but financial institutions haven’t been caught by the probes until now. As part of a separate investigation focusing on money linked to Equatorial Guinea, Societe Generale SA faced questioning but avoided a trial.

BNP declined to comment on the Bongo case. Financial prosecutors at the Parquet National Financier didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

William Bourdon, a lawyer for Transparency International, a plaintiff in the probe, said the charges in the case are “a first.”

“The charges show that there are no big operations of money laundering and misappropriation of public funds without financial engineers,” Bourdon said.

In France, investigative magistrates can charge companies or individuals when there are “serious and consistent” clues showing likely involvement. They can then decide whether to refer a case to trial, but aren’t involved after that stage.

Omar Bongo was the President of Gabon from 1967 until 2009, when he died. His son, Ali Bongo, is the current leader of the West African nation.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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