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Congo's first lady summoned by US law firm over 'contract payment'

Congo's first lady summoned by US law firm over 'contract payment'

Republic of the Congo

First lady of the Congo Republic, Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso, has been summoned by lawyers in the United States over a case of non-payment of a contractor believed to have been close with the first family in the 1990s.

The summons of June 27 was by a law firm, White and Case, acting on the back of a US court decision.

According to media reports, the Lebanese American businessman, Mohsin Hojeij, who reportedly won a range of contracts during his ‘good times’ with the first family, claims he has not been fully paid for work he has duly executed.

According to Hojeij, with accrual of interest, he is owed some $1 billion euros. The latest court summons comes despite the government trying to argue that Mrs. Sassou-Nguesso enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

RFI Afrique reports that before the US court’s ruling, several courts (in the UK, Belgium, Sweden, USA and France) have ruled in favor of the businessman but Brazzaville has repeatedly not paid him.

In 2015, the equivalent of six million euros have been gleaned to Paris bank accounts belonging to the Congolese authorities. But lawyers are bent on doing all it takes to recover all their client’s money.

They assert that the amount owed has been increasing: from 100 million euros in 1990s to one billion today, an amount estimated to be nearly 20% of the budget of the Congo this year.

The objective of the summons being to push Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso to cooperate by providing the American law firm any information in her possession on sources of income of the family, the location of assets and those of the Congolese state .

But Simone Bernard Dupré, lawyer of the Congolese state, insists that the summons is clearly against diplomacy and inetrnational comity describing the summons as ‘offensive.’