Equatorial Guinea rejects French kickback claims

25th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Equatorial Guinea denied allegations Sunday that its president and current African Union chairman was among a group of African leaders to have sent dirty cash to France.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema, one of the continent's longest-standing rulers, was named by Robert Bourgi, a French-Lebanese advisor at the French presidency, in a kickbacks scandal earlier this month.

Malabo denied the allegations in a statement issued by its embassy in Paris and received by AFP.

"While expressing surprise at these allegations ... the embassy wishes to categorically deny such baseless statements," the statement said.

Bourgi, a long-time unofficial point man between France's Elysee palace and the regimes in former African colonies, rocked French politics earlier this month with a raft of allegations on illicit cash handouts.

Insisting he was coming forward because he wanted a "clean France", Bourgi said he took part in kickback payments between 1995 and 2005 involving ex-president Jacques Chirac and his former aide Dominique de Villepin, among others. Villepin served as prime minister from May 2005 to May 2007.

Bourgi on September 11 and 12 alleged through several media that leaders of former French colonies had given $20 million (14.6 million euros) in payoffs to Chirac and Villepin.

Together with the presidents of Gabon, Burkina Faso, Congo, Senegal and Ivory Coast, Obiang was among those alleged to have handed over briefcases stuffed with cash in return for France turning a blind eye to autocratic rule and rights violations.

© 2011 AFP

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