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Former Miss France charged over $752,000 gift from late Gabon President Omar Bongo

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A former Miss France Beauty Pageant winner, Sonia Rolland, has been charged with accepting a $752,000 gift from Gabon’s former dictator, the late Omar Bongo, who is subject to a long-running inquiry over alleged ill-gotten wealth, alongside several of his children, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Rolland who is originally from Rwanda, is being charged with “receipt of embezzled public funds for accepting from Bongo an apartment worth 800,000 euros ($752,000) in the chic 16th Arrondissement of Paris in 2003,” a report said.

French prosecutors also charged four of Omar Bongo’s children with “embezzlement and corruption on suspicion that they knowingly benefited from a fraudulently-acquired empire of real estate and other assets worth at least €85 million.”

“The real estate and assets included
apartments and buildings in Paris and the Mediterranean city of Nice as well as luxury cars, several of which have been seized by French authorities,” the report said.

According to authoritive French daily Liberation, Rolland who was the first African to win the Miss France pageant and I’d now an actress, told investigators last year that the apartment was a gift for her patronage of beauty contests in Africa.

Her lawyer, Charles Morel, who spoke to newsmen on the charges, said Ms
Rolland who was 22 at the time, had “obviously recognised that she was naive but contests any wrongdoing.”

“My client was 22 years old, she was coming out of a period in which she had been thrown into a world she knew nothing about, neither its codes nor its sordidness.

“At no point did she know the source of the funds nor the financial arrangements,” Morel said.

Omar Bongo who ruled Gabon with an iron fist for 42 years, died of cardiac arrest while being treated for intestinal cancer in 2009. He became president of the Central African country in 1967, seven years after Gabon gained independence from France.

Omar Bongo’s four decades reign over Gabon was mired by allegations of corruption including his family members and close associates.

At his death, his son Ali Bongo swiftly took over from him, further accentuating the Bongo dynasty.

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Malian migrants, including children, die as makeshift Europe-bound boat capsizes in Libya

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Twenty-two Malian migrants including three children, have been killed when their makeshift Europe-bound boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, the United Nations as well as the Malian government have confirmed on Wednesday.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), also confirmed that 61 other migrants were rescued and taken to a detention centre in Libya.

The Ministry of Malians Abroad, in a statement, said the people who died were part of a group of 83 mostly Malian nationals who were stuck on a distressed vessel since June 22.

The IOM, in statement by its spokeswoman Safa Msehli, said the rescued victims were brought back to shore with the help of the Libyan coastguard after nine days at sea, adding that the “cause of death for the 22 people was drowning and dehydration.”

Msehli also said some of the survivors were in very poor health and had to be taken to hospital by the IOM.

“The remaining migrants were taken to al-Maya detention centre” in Libya, she said.

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Monkeypox: WHO records over 6,000 cases in 58 countries in recent outbreak

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According to the World Health Organization, more than 6,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 58 countries in the current outbreak.

The United Nations agency is yet to decide declaring the outbreak a global health emergency, the WHO’s highest level of alert.

Its committee reconvene a meeting in July 18 to decide or sooner.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference from Geneva.

Monkeypox, a disease that was once largely restricted to Africa, has also penetrated Europe and North America in its recent spread with more than 100 cases recorded outside Africa.

The UN committee meeting in June 27 decided that the disease was not yet a health emergency. There have recently been reported cases in other African countries like Nigeria and Morocco.

“I continue to be concerned by the scale and spread of the virus across the world,” Tedros said, adding that a lack of testing meant that there were likely many more cases going unreported.

Until recently, monkeypox had been a disease that was once largely restricted to Africa, but has gradually penetrating Europe and North America in its recent outbreak.

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