A former Miss France has been placed under investigation in connection with a 1 million-euro flat that she was given by an African ruler suspected of amassing a fortune through corruption, reports The Times.
Sonia Rolland, 41, is accused of benefiting from the ill-gotten gains of Omar Bongo, the late president of Gabon, who is alleged to have siphoned off hundreds of millions of euros as part of deals to sell his country’s raw materials, notably oil.
Rolland, who won the Miss France title in 2000, six years after her family fled genocide in Rwanda, admitted that she was “naive” to have accepted the flat in Paris from Bongo but denied wrongdoing. French media reported that prosecutors have begun proceedings to seize the property.
Transparency International filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Bongo and two other African rulers, Teodoro Obiang, 79, who has been president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, and Denis Sassou-Nguesso, 78, head of state in the Republic of the Congo since 1997. The anti-corruption association claimed that the African leaders used the proceeds of corruption to buy property, luxury cars and other assets in France.
Bongo served as president of Gabon for nearly 42 years before he died, aged 73, in 2009. He was succeeded by his son, Ali, who is now 63.
Police say Bongo, bought at least 39 properties worth 85 million euros in France, including a 20 million-euro mansion in Paris, and other flats and houses that he gave to family and friends, such as Rolland.