By: Seringe ST Touray
Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, the spouse of Gabon’s ousted president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, is facing charges of “money laundering” and other offenses, according to the public prosecutor’s announcement on Friday, a month following her husband’s overthrow in a coup.
The investigating judge, Andre Patrick Roponat, revealed on Thursday that Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin has been formally charged. The charges include money laundering, receiving stolen goods, forgery, and fraud, all falling under the purview of articles 116, 117, 312, and 380 of the Penal Code. She has been placed under house arrest as a result.
“Twelve fellow citizens faced arrests and allegations of both criminal and misdemeanor offenses, leading to the detention of some individuals. Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin presented herself before the examining magistrate on September 28, 2023. The charges against her included money laundering, receiving stolen goods, forgery, and fraud. Following these accusations, she was placed under house arrest,” the prosecutor stated.
The former first lady has been confined since her husband’s ousting on August 30. Initially described as being under house arrest in Libreville for her safety, her lawyers, based in France, contend that she and her youngest son are being held arbitrarily.
Despite the initial house arrest, Ali Bongo was later declared “free to move about” with the option of traveling abroad. Their son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has already faced charges of corruption and misappropriation of public funds, along with several former cabinet members and two ex-ministers.
Ali Bongo, who had governed the central African nation since 2009, was deposed by military leaders shortly after being declared the winner in a contested presidential election. The opposition and coup leaders labeled the election result as fraudulent, accusing his regime of widespread corruption and poor governance.
The junta has taken a stern approach toward the former first lady and the eldest son, alleging that they forged Ali Bongo’s signature and issued orders on his behalf following his stroke in 2018. Ali Bongo had assumed power in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar, who had ruled for nearly 42 years.