Washington, DC - Congressman Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed a British court ruling that lets the human rights group Global Witness publish financial records reflecting lavish spending by the Congolese president's son.
“I commend Global Witness for helping uphold proper governance in the Republic of Congo, where so many people live in poverty while a very few live in luxury's lap,” said Lantos, the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. “The Republic of Congo is an oil-rich country where two-thirds of the people live on less than a dollar a day. The son of a public official there is suspected of purloining public funds for extravagant personal shopping sprees abroad. In the interest of transparency, the records obtained by Global Witness should remain available for all the world to see.”
The High Court of Justice in London, where Global Witness is headquartered, has ruled that the watchdog group can continue to post on its Web site the documents that it has obtained showing the personal spending habits of Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, who heads the marketing arm of Congo's state-owned oil company, Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo. He has been accused of using the country's oil revenues to support a lavish lifestyle.
Sassou-Nguesso's attorneys argued unsuccessfully that publishing the documents will violate his right to privacy. The court determined that there was a greater public interest in bringing the information to light.
The Republic of Congo ranks 142 of 163 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Lantos called on the Secretary of State to re-evaluate U.S. military assistance to this undeserving regime.