Sonia Rolland: first Miss France of African origin investigated on Omar Bongo’s apartment gift

Rolland was the first African-born winner of the Miss France pageant in 2000, when she was 22. In 2003, the beauty queen received an apartment in Paris as a gift from Bongo, with real estate valued at around €800,000 (over $850,000), according to the French newspaper Le Parisien.

The French national prosecutor in charge of financial crime (PNF) confirmed to CNN on Thursday that Rolland had been indicted for “receiving and embezzling public funds”.

No arrest warrant has been issued against Rolland, the prosecution said.

In a statement sent to CNN, his attorney Charles Morel said the luxury real estate acquired by Rolland from the Bongo family was unsolicited and only discovered after many years.

“She obviously admits to having been naive but denies any infringement,” Morel said, adding: “At no time was she aware of the origin of the funds or the financial arrangement.”

Morel also said Rolland had “no doubt that she will be exonerated at the end of the investigation.”

The Bongo family ruled Gabon for more than five decades.

Omar Bongo died of cardiac arrest while being treated for bowel cancer in 2009. He ruled the central African country for 42 years, becoming president in 1967, seven years after Gabon’s independence from France. It was quickly succeeded by his son Ali Bongo.

Omar Bongo ruled Gabon with an iron fist with his decades in power marred by spiral corruption allegations.

The acquisitions of the late president in France were the subject of a long criminal investigation by the French authorities, with some of his frozen accounts and seized assets.
In 2016, two houses belonging to Bongo Ali’s son were seized, one in Nice and the other in the capital, Paris, according at the Parisian.
Four of Omar Bongo’s children were indicted for corruption by French prosecutors – an allegation they all deny.

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