The Sassou-Ngueso family, in power for nearly 40 years, is the subject of a new controversy.
The Congolese president’s daughter allegedly misappropriated public funds to buy a luxury apartment in the Donald Trump residential and hotel complex in New York, said Global Witness, an anti-corruption NGO.
Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, also the president’s communications director, is reported to have bought the $ 7 million apartment in Manhattan in the summer of 2014, raising further concerns about Trump’s links to international money laundering. .
According to Global Witness, José Veiga, a Portuguese businessman and Claudia Sassou-Nguesso’s henchman, was commissioned to buy the apartment. On paper, the owner of Trump Tower’s 32G apartment is Ecree, but Global Witness said the real owner is Claudia Sassou-Nguesso.
To take over the apartment, she would have called on an intermediary, the Portuguese businessman Veiga, also representative of Asperbras, a Brazilian construction giant who moved to Brazzaville since Brazil helped the country. Congo to repay its debt.
Asperbras will later transfer subsidiary funds to a subsidiary, particularly in the British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax haven, said Global Witness.
The NGO explains that the money had passed through Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands and Delaware after being removed from the Congolese Treasury. Trump International Realty, owned by the Trump Organization, has negotiated the sale, according to documents consulted by Global Witness.
📣REVEALED: A luxury condo in #Trump’s flagship Hotel & Tower NYC apparently used to launder stolen public funds by daughter of #Congo #Brazzaville kleptocratic President. Authorities in the US must investigate. https://t.co/ZlsuuIe3Kr pic.twitter.com/djcJMRqCGj
— Global Witness (@Global_Witness) April 10, 2019
According to the NGO, an international law firm and a front company, headquartered in Cyprus, were also involved in the deal.
Veiga said in 2017 that the apartment belonged to a company of which he was a shareholder. He said that the apartment was financed by him alone and that he “has nothing to do with third parties, namely the family of the President of Congo”.
However, a letter that Veiga wrote to Trump International’s board of directors read as follows: “This letter is sent to you on behalf of my good friend, Lauren Anne Marie Ikia Lemboumba, who asked to buy an apartment in Trump International. Hotel & Tower Condominium.
Lauren Anne Marie Ikia Lemboumba is the 17-year-old daughter of Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, according to Global Witness.
The purchase took place two years before Trump was elected president. Global Witness said the Trump organization should “clarify the source of payments for 32G apartment maintenance since May 2015 as well as Donald Trump’s role in these companies.”
A spokesman for the Trump Organization, however, told The New York Times that the apartment had been purchased from a third party unrelated to the Trump Organization.
However, Global Witness investigator Peter Jones told Quartz that the deal “has all the money laundering features.”
Meanwhile, members of Claudia Sassou-Nguesso’s entourage said that Global Witness’s report is “false” and that the daughter of the Congolese leader “never bought a house in the places indicated and did not the intention to do so “.
Veiga is currently under investigation in its home country of Portugal on corruption and money laundering cases.
Since 25 October 1997, Sassou-Nguesso has been President of the Republic of Congo.
Civil wars and other conflicts have been intense in the country while nearly half of the population lives in poverty, the World Bank said. This is despite the fact that the country is one of the largest oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, making oil the backbone of the economy.
The Sassou-Nguesso family has also been controversial over the years. In 2017, Claudia Sassou-Nguesso’s sister, Julienne Sassou-Nguesso, and her husband Guy Johnson, were the subject of an investigation by the French authorities for “money laundering and abuse of public funds”.