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A majority of people in the Republic of Congo get by on less than $1 a day, but money is no object for Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, the 24-year-old son of the country’s long-time ruler. The London-based group Global Witness has recently posted credit card bills racked up by Sassou-Nguesso,
the head of the state oil company’s marketing arm, that show he has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in a global shopping spree. That includes stops in Paris (where he shopped at Louis Vuitton and stayed at the Bristol Hotel to Dubai (where he shopped at Rodeo Drive).
Young Sassou-Nguesso’s credit card bills were paid by Long Beach, an offshore company in Anguilla that he controls. Global Witness has found evidence that state oil revenues from the Congo have been flowing into the Long Beach account, which was established in 2004.
The Congo may be the only energy-rich nation in the world that is, more or less, shunned by the Bush Administration, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. That gives you some idea of the level of corruption and political misrule. But the Congo does have at least one friend in Washington: Michael Ledeen, the neo-conservative champion of the Iraq War and now the Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
A story last year in the New York Sun said that Ledeen was advising Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso in his capacity as an associate at the Trout-Cacheris law firm. I checked records at the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration office and found that Trout-Cacheris had been paid $1.5 million by the Congolese government through mid-2006 (records are not available beyond that date). The story in the Sun said Ledeen had known Sassou-Nguesso since the late-1980s and quoted him as saying that the Congolese ruler was a “terrific African diplomat.”
That’s a very interesting assessment, given that the same year that Ledeen was touting his friend’s diplomatic skills, Freedom House, a conservative human rights group, downgraded the Congo’s civil liberties rating “due to a steady erosion of the rule of law, including the failure of the courts to sanction high-ranking military officials for a massacre of refugees.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Amount traders on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange can be fined for fighting, per punch:
Philadelphian teenagers who want to lose weight also tend to drink too much soda, whereas Bostonian teenagers who drink too much soda are likelier to carry guns.
Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”