- The French government has frozen President Omar Bongo's bank accounts following an appeal court ruling directing Gabonese president to return payment he received in exchange for a French businessman.
According to French officials, President Bongo was paid more than $580,000 to release Frenchman Rene Cardona who was arrested following a dispute with the president in 1996 over a fishing and shipping firm.
Mr Bongo is reported to have more than US$4m in French bank accounts. The French court in September ruled that he had received the payment illegally, while on Monday this week the appeal court confirmed and upheld the ruling.
The court wants President Bongo to pay $1, 444 million to Mr Cardona, stemming from an incident in 1996. The fine includes the original ransom payment plus interest over nearly 13 years.
Mr Bongo has been a close ally of a string of French leaders but according to reports, his relations with Paris have deteriorated in recent years amid legal challenges by anti-corruption activists.
According to the daily Sud Ouest in France, since President Bongo has immunity as a head of state, only bank accounts related to his activities as a private individual were attached by the court.
The African long serving President is reportedly owning more than 30 luxury properties in France according to French police investigations.
Gabon is one of West Africa's more stable states than its neighbours, however, political analysts have said its weak stance to root out corruption could threaten its stability.
Since independence from France in 1960 Gabon has had just two presidents and it is currently led by President Bongo who has been in power since 1967.
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