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Congolese president’s nephew in shady French political deals

Research Group International | 22.12.2014 15:09 | Analysis | Globalisation | Social Struggles | World

Jean Dominique Okemba, the newphew of the Congolese president, is involved in shady deals in France together with financial institutions from France and Proparco, the French investment agency.

His name is not often mentioned in the media and he even managed to avoid the “biens mal acquis”(illegally acquired assets) investigation in France.

This investigation was prompted by a legal complaint filed in 2009 by SHERPA, a human rights group, on behalf of Transparency International France against several African leaders, and their entourages, of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo-Brazzaville, for allegedly using public funds to buy luxury properties and goods in France.

This secretive man is however said to soon be the next leader of the Republic of Congo and to be backed up by French intelligence. His name is Jean Dominique Okemba aka JDO.

Jean Dominique Okemba, Special Adviser to Denis Sassou N’guesso, current President of Congo Brazzaville since 1997, is Secretary-General of the National Security Council since 2002.

Unlike other members of the Sassou tribe known for their tastes in luxury cars and lavish travel, JDO is not leading a flamboyant lifestyle. Or so it seems.

JDO is the chairman of the BGFIBANK Congo’s management board, a subsidiary of BGFIBank SA. This bank was created on the ashes of ELF’s African Bank ‘Banque Française Intercontinentale/French Intercontinental Bank’ (FIBA), better known as the African presidents’ bank. This bank was at the heart of a French investigation against the controversial oil group ELF.

The management of BGFIBANK includes French individuals all reportedly close to JDO and all former executives of the pro-African bank , Credit Commercial de France (CFF). They are Eric Guyon Assistant General Manager of BGFIBANK Congo and Bernard Pedrepat-Lamechinou General Director of BGFI International. But the connections between French individuals and JDO don’t stop here.

In 2008 , BGFIBANK Congo allegedly acquired a banking company named Société Congolaise de financement (SOCOFIN)/ALIOS FINANCE CONGO SA from the French holding company Alios Finance SA/Groupement d’intérêt économique pour favoriser le développement du crédit automobile et industriel en Afrique (GIEFCA).

This Pan-African specialized finance company, headquartered in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, home to the Champs-Élysées and to the executive branch of the French government, has several subsidiaries mostly based in French speaking African countries. The managing bank of Alios Finance/GIEFCA is Credit Commercial de France, now called HSBC, where JDO keeps excellent relations.

The peculiarity of this group ALIOS FINANCE/GIEFCA is that despite the fact that there are no staff in their office (located in a business center at 8 rue de Berri) it is currently receiving millions of Euros in loans from PROPARCO a French development financial institution partly owned by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) on the basis of renewed framework agreements. The initial objective of the loans was to support the development of a financial group that plays a key role in financing the acquisition of productive capital goods in local currency.

How much money goes back to PROPARCO and how is the money used in Alios Finance no one knows. The institution has always been opaque when it comes to its investments. It was already blamed in an article published by the French satyrical newspaper « Le Canard Enchaîné » in June 2014 for investing mostly in tax haven juridisctions such as the Caïman islands, BVI or Cyprus. According to the newspaper’s investigation, PROPARCO even financed the building of a plastic surgery clinic in Tunisia.

Prior to October 2014, the majority shareholder of Alios Finance/GIEFCA was its subsidiary, SAFCA SOCIETE AFRICAINE DE CREDIT AUTOMOBILE (SAFCA)/Alios Finance Côte d’Ivoire. This company is directed by Eric Leclere, a French businessman known in close circles to be the right arm of JDO. Leclere was also the director of ALIOS FINANCE CONGO before it was allegedly sold to BGFIBANK Congo.

Another French individual with signatory power over the company is Alain Guyon. Could he be a relative of Eric Guyon from BGFIBank Congo ? Very likely. Especially as Alain and Eric Guyon are co-administrating a real estate company in France named SOCIETE CIVILE IMMOBILIERE DU STADE.

In October 2014, Alios Finance’s majority shares (59.3 %) were bought by PROPARCO and Tunisie Leasing for an undisclosed amount. The operation could have been insignificant if the sell agreement hadn’t been facilitated by the Paris based law firm Scemla Loizon Veverka & de Fontmichel (SLVF) and the private investment bank Oddo Finance.

SLVF counts among its managing partners Charles Fillon, son of former French Prime Minister François Fillon, and Olivier Loizon a lawyer renowned for representing Congo’s interests in litigation cases. Prior to SLVF, Loizon used to work for the lawfirm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton alongside Jean-Pierre Vignaud, Cleary's relationship partner for Congo.

The managing partner at ODDO Finance responsible for dealing with the Alios Finance sell was Fatine Layt. Mrs Layt is very well known in the French political circles as she was foreseen to replace Rachida Dati, former Justice Minister during the 2008 ministerial reshuffle ordered by former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It was under Nicolas Sarkozy’s mandate that JDO was offered the National Order of the Legion of Honour upon recommendations of Claude Gueant and Robert Bourgui. Sarkozy government was famously involved in a string of corruption scandals involving Western African state owned oil giants. Investigations by the French justice are still on-going.

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