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PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - The nephew of Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been put under formal investigation in France for alleged money laundering, a judicial source said on Wednesday.
Magistrates have been investigating several African leaders and close family members amid suspicions of embezzlement of public funds to buy real estate and other assets in France.
The judicial source said Wilfrid Nguesso, 50, was placed under formal investigation for acts committed between 2000 and 2001.
Le Monde newspaper had earlier reported that Nguesso, who is close to the president, was suspected of financing real estate acquisitions and buying luxury products through complex networks emanating from public funds.
Nguesso’s lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Under French criminal law, a formal investigation means there is “serious or consistent evidence” pointing to likely implication of a suspect in a crime.
It is one step closer to a trial, but some such investigations have been dropped without going to court.
The case is part of a broader investigation into money-laundering targeting the families of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang, Gabon President Omar Bongo and Congo’s Sassou Nguesso. Together the families are suspected of owning 63 luxury properties in Paris and having some 200 bank accounts.
Teodorin Obiang, the eldest son of President Obiang and a vice-president of the country, will face trial in June on accusations of buying palatial Parisian properties and exotic cars with money plundered from his country, a small oil-rich state on Africa’s west coast.
Obiang denies any wrongdoing and has said his wealth was amassed legitimately. (Reporting by Simon Carraud; writing by John Irish; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Ken Ferris)