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French court opens way to probe of African assets
PARIS (Reuters) - France's highest court reopened the way on Tuesday for a legal investigation into tens of millions of euros worth of assets held in the country by three African presidents or their families.
The court overturned a Paris appeals court ruling rejecting a case lodged by non-governmental anti-graft organisation Transparency International that pressed for a judicial inquiry into the source of assets held in France by the presidential families of Gabon, Congo-Republic and Equatorial Guinea.
Tuesday's ruling by the higher court allows the matter to be pursued by an investigating magistrate.
A police inquiry in 2007 listed dozens of French properties, bank accounts and luxury cars including Bugattis, Ferraris and a Rolls-Royce among assets held in France by the three presidential families.
At the time, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Omar Bongo, Gabon's then president and the father of President Ali Ben Bongo, denied any wrongdoing.
The case has threatened to strain French diplomatic and business ties with Gabon and Congo, two former colonies, and with Equatorial Guinea, a growing oil exporter.
(Reporting by Thierry Leveque, Writing by Brian Love)
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