Gabon has a record of systemic corruption and routine bribery involving multiple layers of public servants and decision-makers, There is widespread complicity in trafficking crimes, including judicial staff, with judges allegedly taking bribes from traffickers to delay or dismiss trafficking cases. Despite fiscal management reform efforts, systemic corruption still persists. The embezzlement of state funds reportedly gives rise to money laundering and the recent instability in the country has led to arms brokers seeking to sell weapons.
In the year 2021, Sub-Saharan Africa showed no remarkable progress in its journey away from corruption based on the Corruption Perception Index. Gabon, a Sub-Saharan country was ranked 124 out of 180 as it’s corruption degree in the very same year by Transparency International.
Financial Crime in Gabon
Gabon suffers from porous borders and smuggling. The country has put in efforts through fiscal management reforms to fight corruption, but it seems to linger. Ranging from embezzlement to money laundering, to theft in the oil and gas sector, to corruption in its timber industry, to drug crimes, Gabon struggles with several financial crimes in many of its sectors.
Many top officials have been involved in financial crimes in Gabon, either in its extractive sector or by looting the nation’s wealth, money laundering, unexplained wealth, family loot, etc.
Recently, a French radio station reported that a Gabon court handed down a sentence to the former director of the Gabon Oil Company, Brice Laccruche Alihanga, following investigations on corruption charges involving him and two other former employees of the country’s oil company. It was also reported that the country’s Special Criminal Court in its capital, Libreville, also found two officials guilty of embezzlement and money laundering, sentencing them to 12 and 10 years respectively.
Family Loot exists in Gabon very deeply. The Bongo family, who have ruled Gabon for five decades, from the father, Omar Bongo(late), and now Ali Bongo(his son), have been consistently accused of looting the country’s wealth, these accusations have been investigated, and authorities have discovered that the family owns bundles of cash stashed, cars, expensive properties, and general assets purchased with these stolen funds from the nation’s economy. It was also discovered that the family owns properties worth over US $4.2million.
It is highly suspected that the family has benefited from a fraudulently acquired real estate empire worth 85 million Euros, much of which was from “undue commission” by exploiting Gabon’s oil reserves.
On drug crimes, cannabis, cocaine, tramadol, heroin, and all forms of synthetic drugs are smuggled into Gabon via its porous borders, they are repackaged and shipped through sea and air routes to various destinations, thereby encouraging money laundering.
Gabon generally adopts relevant laws with respect to combatting organized crime but is weak with compliance and implementation. The shortcomings in its legal system also make prosecution of financial criminals difficult.