A Paris court's decision to convict 36 people in connection to illegal arms sales to Angola during its civil war in the 1990s, including arms dealers, middlemen and French politicians, is a victory for the rule of law and Angolan victims of the conflict, Global Witness said today.
"Justice has prevailed despite Angolan government attempts to stop the case," said Simon Taylor of Global Witness, which has been investigating corruption in Angola since 1999. The country is rich in oil but its people mostly live in dire poverty.
"The people in power in Angola during the civil war are still in power now and corruption is still rife. There is a long way to go before Angola's people, who still suffer from the destructive legacy of the war, receive the full benefits of their own oil wealth," said Taylor.
Arms dealers Pierre Falcone and Arkadi Gaydamak have been sentenced to six years in prison for arms trafficking and other offences. Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua was sentenced to a year in jail for taking bribes from the two men. Amongst others convicted, a son of former President Mitterrand and a banker from BNP Paribas, a top French bank, were given suspended sentences. Appeals are expected to follow.
The indictment prepared by prosecutors made detailed references to top Angolan officials receiving large payments from Falcone. However, no Angolan officials were indicted.
A separate trial in 2003 revealed that the French state oil company Elf had systematically bribed African leaders and meddled in civil wars. On Thursday, a French court rules on the latest stage in a legal complaint which alleges that the heads of state of Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea and the late president of Gabon used public funds to buy lavish properties in France.
"The French courts have a vital role to play in fighting the curse of corruption in oil-rich African countries and we hope they will continue to provide justice," said Taylor.
Diarmid O'Sullivan +44 7872 620 955/ +44 207 561 6363
Aloys Ligault +44 7703 108 449/+ 44 207 561 6362Global Witness investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses