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Gabon charges wife of ousted president with 'money laundering'

Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba (R) and wife Sylvia Bongo Ondimba (L) arrive to take their seats inside Westminster Abbey in central London on May 6, 2023   -  
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**Gabon's former first lady has been indited with receiving stolen goods among other charges.

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, the wife of Gabon's ousted president Ali Bongo Ondimba has been charged with "money laundering" and other offences, the public prosecutor said Friday (Sep. 29) a month after a coup toppled her husband.

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin was charged by an investigating judge on Thursday (Sep. 28), Andre Patrick Roponat announced on state TV channels on Friday.

""A dozen compatriots were arrested and charged with criminal and misdemeanor offences, and some were remanded in custody. It was in this context that Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin appeared before the examining magistrate on the 28th of September 2023. She was charged with money laundering, receiving stolen goods as well as forgery and fraud, all offences punishable under articles 116, 117, 312 and 380 of the Penal Code, before being placed under house arrest." the prosecutor said. 

The former first lady has not been free to move since her husband was toppled on August 30.

The presidency said at the time that Mrs. Bongo Valentin was under house arrest in Libreville "for her protection"; her lawyers who have in France said she was "arbitrarily detained together with her youngest son".

One of her lawyers said earlier this month that she was being kept "incommunicado outside any legal framework".

Ali Bongo, who was initially placed under house arrest in Libreville after the coup, was then declared "free to move about" with the possibility of "travelling abroad".

Their son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has already been charged with corruption and embezzling public funds with several former cabinet members and two ex-ministers.

Bongo, 64, who had ruled the central African country since 2009, was overthrown by military leaders, moments after being proclaimed the winner in a presidential election.

The result was branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who have also accused his regime of widespread corruption and bad governance.

The junta however took a tougher stance on the former first lady and the eldest son of the former first couple.

The coup leader general Oligui accused the duo of "forging Ali Bongo's signature and giving orders on his stead" after he suffered a stroke in 2018.

Ali Bongo took over when his father Omar died in 2009 after nearly 42 years in power.

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