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 expensive cars 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 S.A. This bank was created on the ashes of ELF’s African Bank ‘Banque Française Intercontinentale’ or 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 Aquitaine by investigative judges Eva Joly and Laurence Vichnievsky in 2000.
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). These individuals are Eric Guyon, Assistant General Manager of BGFIBANK Congo, and Bernard Pedrepat-Lamechinou, General Director of BGFI International in Paris. But the connections between these French bankers and JDO don’t stop here. JDO has certainly much more powerful connections in France.
In 2008, BGFIBANK Congo allegedly acquired a banking company named Société Congolaise de financement (SOCOFIN)/ALIOS FINANCE CONGO S.A from a French holding company named ALIOS FINANCE S.A/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 retains excellent relations and where he has hired most of his senior advisers.
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 in Paris) it is currently receiving millions of Euros in loans from PROPARCO a French development financial institution partly owned by the French Development Agency the 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 seemingly 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 by the French satyrical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné in an article published 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.
Even more intriguing is the fact that the representative director of ALIOS FINANCE GROUP, Paul Derreumaux, happens to also be the director of one of ALIOS’ shareholders, Bank of Africa Group S.A (BOA), previously called African Financial Holding S.A which was involved in the 2014 sale of ALIOS’ majority shares. According to the influential newsletter La Lettre du Continent, devoted to business and economic affairs of countries in West Africa (article n.505_09/11/2006), Paul Derreumaux, a French national who worked in Cote d’Ivoire, is a trusted confident to African affluent businessmen. His bank, BOA, is largely supported by the French Development Agency (AFD) and by Natexis bank, which is as well managing ALIOS FINANCE’s assets.
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 JDO’s right arm. 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, BOA and Tunisie Leasing for an undisclosed amount. The operation could have been insignificant if the purchase’s agreement hadn’t been facilitated by the Paris based law firm Scemla Loizon Veverka & de Fontmichel (SLVF) and the private investment bank ODDO FINANCE.
The next question would be ‘who are behind these institutions?’ SLVF counts among its managing partners no one else but 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 law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton alongside Jean-Pierre Vignaud, Cleary's relationship partner for Congo.
Jean-Pierre Vignaud, an adviser to the Societe Nationale des Petrole du Congo (SNPC), is known for his "privileged connections" in the Congolese government. Vignaud is as well famously notable for his part in a US litigation case as he allegedly attempted to dissuade a witness from testifying about his dealings with the Republic of Congo. As a result, the federal judge in charge of the case sanctioned Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
The managing partner at ODDO FINANCE responsible for dealing with the ALIOS FINANCE’s sale was Fatine Layt. Mrs Layt is well famed within 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 is noticeable to remember that it was under Nicolas Sarkozy’s mandate that JDO was offered the National Order of the Legion of Honour upon recommendations of former Home Affairs Minister Claude Gueant and lawyer Robert Bourgi. Both men have been investigated following a string of corruption scandals involving African state owned oil giants. Investigations by the French justice are still on-going.
Research Group International