by Aly Jonas

African ill-gotten gains: now it's Dubai

Biens mal acquis africains : maintenant c'est Dubaï

A recent investigation, dubbed "Dubai Unlocked", has uncovered a complex network of real estate transactions involving the relatives of African heads of state.

Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, once an emblematic figure of the Gabonese political scene, today finds herself at the center of a resounding affair. For thirty-two years, she held the prestigious position of President of the Constitutional Court, closely linked to former President Omar Bongo. But its influence and status were shaken by the overthrow of the regime by a military junta in 2023.

Since then, Parisian investigating judges have been carrying out an in-depth investigation into Ms Mborantsuo's financial activities. Accusations of laundering and embezzlement of public funds were revived by a leak of confidential data, called "Dubai Unlocked", to which Le Monde had access. This leak reveals that Ms Mborantsuo and her children spent a colossal sum to acquire a property portfolio in Dubai, valued at 24 million Emirati dirhams in winter 2013.

However, Ms Mborantsuo is not an isolated case. The data leak exposes an extensive network of real estate investments in Dubai involving the relatives of many African leaders. These transactions, often well beyond the investors' official means, raise questions about the origin and legality of the funds used.

The astronomical sums spent on these properties in Dubai hardly correspond to the official income of those involved, thus casting a harsh light on the opaque practices that often characterize governance in Africa. As legal investigations continue, these revelations could well mark a turning point in the fight against corruption and money laundering on a continental scale.

In this context, Dubai appears as the new platform for the financial abuses that plague certain African regimes, offering a refuge for wealth often acquired in dubious ways. Continuing these investigations could not only lead to legislative reforms but also mark a decisive step towards accountability for those who abused their power and misused their countries' resources to the detriment of their people.