Former Minister Talks Of Businessman Who Seized Congo Presidential Plane

A former Congo Brazzaville minister of Special Economic Zones has described the Anglo-Lebanese businessman who engineered the seizure of President Sassou Ngouesso’s presidential jet in Paris as a heartless individual who arrived in the country empty handed but today has the audacity to get the presidential plane seized and placed on auction.

In a statement in Brazzaville on Wednesday, Alain Akouala declared: “This creditor arrived in our country almost empty handed. Thanks to his friendship with some political heavyweights, he won some contracts for the realisation of certain projects.

“His ‘not very important debt’ at the origin of the plane seizure has been validated by the various ministries in our country. How do they feel faced with their consciences?”

The litigation leading to the seizure of the plane has pitted the Congo Brazzaville government against the Congo-registered company, Commission Import-Export (COMMISIMPEX), owned by the Anglo-Lebanese businessman, Mohsen Hojeij, over a 770 million dollar debt the Brazzaville government owes the businessman.

The seizure was ordered on June 8, 2020, by a Paris court and the Congo Brazzaville government has been arguing that being the sovereign property of the government of Congo, it is protected by jurisdictional immunity.

However, this argument was rejected on June 29, 2020, by another French court in Paris thus exposing the plane to being auctioned at the demand of Hojeij.

The plane was seized at the Bordeaux Merignac (Gironde) airport where it had been taken for maintenance.

In a counter filing, the Congolese government is suing the plane’s manufacturers, Dassault Falcon Service and COMMISIMPEX, claiming one million euros for damages and costs, declaring the seizure of the plane as “null and abusive”.

Sources within the Congolese government on Wednesday evening told HumAngle in Brazzaville that the government had not yet played its last card.

“Such a declaration is an indication that besides pursuing the judicial process, the Congolese government may also resort to diplomatic pressure on the French government to release the plane.

“Congo Brazzaville is a major business partner of France, especially in the oil domain where French companies tap most of the crude oil produced by the country.

“The possibility of Sassou Ngouesso suspending French exploitation licences to redress the situation cannot but ruled out,” an African diplomat in the Congolese capital who opted for anonymity because of his status, told HumAngle on Wednesday.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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