The Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD Terre solidaire) Wednesday published a new study highlighting the embezzlement of public funds by heads of state from developing countries, particularly Africa. This new document, titled “ill-gotten gains, who benefits from the crime?”, was particularly interested in the riches of Cameroonian President Paul Barthélemy Biya. The report also denounces the reluctance of rich countries such as France, to freeze and return these “ill-gotten gains.”
Two years after its report on the ill-gotten gains, the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD-Terre) program is back with an another study on “ill-gotten gains, who benefits from the crime?”. The report released Wednesday reveals, like the previous one, the mechanism of misuse of public funds by about thirty leaders from poor countries, most particularly in Africa.
“In recent decades,” the report said, “assets stolen by those leaders could range between 105 and 180 billion dollars, several times what their countries receive annually in aid money from rich countries.” According to the World Bank and the UN, between 20 and 40 billion dollars leave developing countries each year because of corruption.
The Castles of Paul Biya and his family in France and Germany
Paul Bartholomew Biya, President of Cameroon and in power since 1982, has entered the hall of shame and among those who appear on the list of corrupt heads of state.
According to the authors of “ill-gotten gains, who benefits from the crime”, Paul Biya’s family owns castles in France and Germany, as well as many timber and mining companies. The presidential couple through their many “looting sprees” are said to have caused “the bankruptcy” of a Cameroonian banking company (Société Camerounaise de bank). And that is not all…
The same head of state is also said to be a major financier of Osti (Sovereign Order of the Temple of initiation), an occult organization which is linked to the sect of the Order of the Solar Temple. In 1998, Raymond Bernard, the late founder of Osti (died in 2006), indicated that Paul Biya was a honorary president of a branch of the sect.
The Cameroonian President, reportedly, gave the organization 5.6 million French francs on 2 March 1990 and 11.2 million francs from 1992 to 1998. The funds are said to have been tranfered through the National Hydrocarbons Corporation (SNH) in Cameroon.
But will Paul Biya, after Omar Bongo Ondimba, Denis Sassou Nguesso and Teodoro Obiang Nguema, be sued in court? The 2007 CCFD report, helped Transparency International to launch a legal action against the corrupt heads of state in France.
Besides the Cameroonian President Paul Barthélémy Biya, the study classes other African heads of states among the best looters of their countries’ wealths. Among them: The former Ivorian president Félix Houphouët-Boigny whose fortune is estimated between 5 and 7 billion euros; Angola’s Eduardo Dos Santos, suspected of having embezzled some 3 billion euros in state funds, including commissions on oil sales; Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his family, already under a Transparency International lawsuit in France, has monopolized 80% of the national oil income from Equatorial Guinea.
France reluctant to return the “ill-gotten gains”
“What is disturbing with this study”, the authors write, “is not so much the volume of stolen assets”, but rather the inaction “despite repeated the promises of wars on corruption, only 1% to 4% of stolen assets have been returned to the concerned populations”.
The report cites the example of France. When it comes to advocating the fight against crime, it is in the lead, but it is well among the last to be concerned with acting or returning assets and ill-gotten to its rightful owners, the document indicates.
This is the “real scandal”, Guy Aurenche, the President of CCFD, said Wednesday at a press conference. “In 2009, hunger is still gaining ground and the money could be used to feed people and to help develop those poor countries”, Guy said.