Ex-Gabon oil firm chief gets 12-year jail sentence for corruption

Allegations of rampant corruption in the extractive sector in Gabon often involve top public officials.

The entrance of an oil refinery of Gabonese Refining Company SOGARA
A picture taken on January 14, 2017, shows the entrance of an oil refinery of Gabonese Refining Company SOGARA in Port-Gentil, central western Gabon. [Justin Tallis/ AFP)

A Gabon court has handed down a sentence to the former director of the Gabon Oil Company following an investigation on corruption charges involving him and two other former employees of the state oil firm.

On Thursday, the Special Criminal Court in the capital, Libreville, found Christian Patrichi Tanasa and his deputy Jérémie Ayong guilty of embezzlement and money laundering, sentencing them to 12 and 10 years respectively. Treasurer Carelle Ndemengane was acquitted by the jury, French radio station RFI has reported.

“It was a good decision,” Aymard Moutsinga, the prosecution lawyer, told RFI. “Justice has been served.”

Defence lawyers, who had sought an acquittal, expressed disappointment and said they would appeal the ruling. “The fact that they have been sentenced is the simple proof of the absence of justice in this country,” Anges Kevin Nzigou said.

The prosecution had requested a jail sentence of 15 years and a fine of 100 million francs CFA ($155,000).

Moutsinga said the court had been “merciful,” adding that she had hoped for a harsher sentence.

Tanasa who was accused of misappropriating 85bn CFA francs ($143m) from the state oil company, has been held in preventive detention for the past two years. In January 2021, he alleged he had been tortured and sexually assaulted while in custody.

Corruption in the extractive sector is rampant and has also previously implicated other top officials, including Brice Laccruche Alihanga, who served as cabinet director to President Ali Bongo for more than two years.

Laccruche was removed from his post in November 2019 during what Bongo framed as a crackdown on theft and money laundering.

Source: Al Jazeera