Congo president's daughter charged with corruption

PARIS - Investigators have widened a corruption probe into the French assets of three African ruling families, charging the daughter and son-in-law of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, judicial sources told AFP on Sunday.

Julienne Sassou Nguesso, 50, and her 53-year-old husband Guy Johnson were placed under investigation this week for "money laundering and misuse of public funds", the sources said.

Investigators are trying to determine how the couple in 2006 were able to purchase a mansion valued at $3.4 million in the swanky Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine just north of the ritzy 16th arrondissement, according to a judicial source.

The tentacles of the case also reach out to ruling families in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Julienne Sassou Nguesso is an insurance agent by profession and her husband is a lawyer.

Between 2007 and 2011, the seven-bedroom house with an indoor pool underwent renovations of 5.34 million euros, raising the couple's total investment to nearly 10 million euros.

Investigators believe the couple may have financed part of the project through an offshore company in the Seychelles and with the sale of shares Julienne Sassou Nguesso owned in a telecommunications company tied to "corruption operations", the source said.

The French finance ministry's intelligence unit Tracfin alerted the authorities to possible misconduct.

Investigators then found that millions of euros of state money had been funnelled from Brazzaville since 2007 to offshore accounts in the Seychelles, on Mauritius Island and in Hong Kong, which they believe were used to fund a lavish lifestyle for members of the presidential family.

"This affair that has been going on for 10 years will be dismissed through totally legal procedures," Jean-Marie Viala, Denis Sassou Nguesso's lawyer, told AFP.

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