Paul Obambi: Azur Telecom
The presidential family or the ruling Nguesso family is also into the Telecommunication sector through one of their best known businessman: Paul Obambi. Mr Obambi is the majority shareholder of a Mobile telephony company: Azur Telecom. This company that Cendrine Sassou Nguesso is also a shareholder is headed by the younger brother of Mr Obambi by name Jean Bruno Obambi, a graduate of HEC in Montreal, Canada. Azur Telecom is not only present in Congo; she has subsidiaries in Gabon and Central Africa Republic. Mr Obambi is not only in the mobile telephony business, he is also into advertising, mining and oil sectors. He is also the owner of Congo Oil in the DRC. Although Paul Obambi staunchly refuses that his success is attached to his proximity to President Sassou Nguesso, many people that, I spoke to before writing this book has a contrary view. They all confirmed to me that Paul Obambi is fronting for President Denis Sassou Nguesso. However all those who made the revelation or confirmed the claims did not want to be named publicly for fear of retaliation.
Alexis Vincent Gomez
While Paul Obambi operates in several sectors within the Congolese economy, the other golden boy of the system is Alexis Vincent Gomez. As his profile has indicated earlier, he is a lawyer and real estate mogul. Many people that I interviewed for this book confirmed to me that, Alexis Vincent Gomez was fronting for Mrs. Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, but like Paul Obambi, he has rejected any accusations of his supposed links with Antoinette Sassou Nguesso or any other member of the ruling Nguesso family. The other reality in Congo is that, without any proximity with members of the ruling Nguesso family, it is almost impossible to do business in the country. Most Lebanese and West African businessmen operating in Congo will back the latter claims. They (West African businessmen) can’t operate without the backing of one or more members of the ruling Nguesso family. Some West African and Lebanese businessmen do boast that, their businesses are either a cover for one of the Nguessos or for some influential persons within the system. They are no longer afraid to tell anybody who cares to listen that, they are doing business with the support of the ruling family. The Nguessos don’t have investments only in Congo. Some of their supports have invested massively out of Congo. The cases of Paul Obami with his mobile phone company present in Gabon and Central African Republic and Willy Etoka who has investments in Congo, Morocco, France and the United States. In the US, Willy Etoka has invested in a property at Potomac and McDonalds franchises. The rise of Willy Etoka from rag to richest would have been wonderful and also a source of inspiration to many poor and better educated Congolese if it was really the fruit of hard work. He was formerly a used tire merchant around Miadeka Street in Brazzaville and today he is the 10th richest man in French-speaking Africa with a presidential ambition because he is fronting for Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso.
Orion Oil, owned by Lucien Ebata is based in neighbouring DRC, precisely in Kinshasa. Orion Oil also has offices in Canada and Switzerland. Lucien Ebata is perhaps the top among the golden boys fronting for the Nguesso ruling family that I know personally besides Paul Obambi. I had the opportunity while in Congo Brazzaville to interview him twice for my TV programme, La Grande Interview broadcast on MNTV. How he became rich is equally a fairytale comparable to that of Willy Etoka, earlier mentioned. My investigations have revealed that, in spite all the stories that are officially narrated as being the source of his wealth; the truth is that, the Nguesso families are the ones who have propelled him to the pinnacle of African business. However, what I was not able to pinpoint clearly, was who was his connecting man or woman within the Nguesso family. Some people I spoke with claimed that, he was working for Edgard Nguesso, while others claim that, he was working for Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso. Whatever the case, Lucien Ebata is not a self made business man as he would want the world to think he is, but a product of a corrupt system. He is one of the many conduits through which the ruling Nguesso family uses to siphon out of the country, funds generated from the sale of Congolese crude oil. Lucien Ebata is a brilliant businessman who has decided to diversify his business by going into the media. He has bought the franchise for French-speaking black Africa of the American magazine: Forbes. The French-speaking edition or Forbes franchise for Africa is known as Forbes Afrique and it has become a platform under which the ruling party uses to launder it image at home and abroad by organizing conferences for media professionals and for spent out politicians from western democracies: Guy Verhostadt, Pierre Raffarin, Dominique de Villepin or Vincente Fox to give themselves a semblance of political rejuvenation. It was through Forbes Afrique that Willy Etoka, one of the creatures of the system was exposed as the 10th richest person in French-speaking Africa.