French political parties reject Gabon corruption charges

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Officials from the French political left and right on Thursday rejected accusations that their parties had received embezzled funds from Gabon's late president Omar Bongo.

US diplomatic cables, released by WikiLeaks and published on Tuesday by Spain's El Pais daily, alleged that Bongo lined his pockets with money from a 37-million-dollar (28-million-euro) bank embezzlement scheme and funneled some of it to French political parties.

"All of this is completely fanciful," the spokesman for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling conservative UMP party told AFP.

"I call all the more for prudence as the quoted cables are in the conditional, which shows the great fragility of these accusations," he said.

The US embassy said in the cable it was unable to assess the charges' veracity.

The treasurer of the opposition Socialist party, Regis Juanico, said that the party was "in no way concerned" by the accusations, calling for "prudence concerning the content of diplomatic cables."

A senior official at the Bank of Central of African States (BEAC) made the accusation four days after Bongo's death in June 2009, in an interview with a diplomat at the US embassy in Cameroon, the cable 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 Nicolas Sarkozy," the unnamed bank official was quoted as saying.

Asked who received the funds, the bank official said: "Both sides, but mostly the right; especially (former French president Jacques) Chirac and including Sarkozy."

In Gabon, the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party said the cables were defamatory and sullied Bongo's memory.

© 2010 AFP

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