CEMAC: Officials invest more than 33 billion CFA francs in Dubai’s real estate
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest tower ©https://fismes-tourisme.fr

CEMAC: Officials invest more than 33 billion CFA francs in Dubai’s real estate

According to a large number of properties listed by C4ADS between 2019 and 2020, over 72 personalities, including ministers, mayors, members of parliament and businessmen from Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Congo and the Central African Republic have made significant investments in the property sector in Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates investment in Dubai’s by Officials. The monetary value of these properties, located in posh neighbourhoods in one of the world’s most attractive cities, could contribute to the socio-economic development of the sub-region, which is faced with problems of access to education, health, housing, water, etc.

Three commercial flats, one of over 100 m2 and two of 68 m2, at Al Warsan First, a residential community offering a wide range of high-standard properties in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These are some of the few assets owned by Moufta Halia Moussa, a Cameroonian businesswoman and Member of Parliament investment in Dubai’s by Officials. The properties owned by this member of the ruling party Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement  (CPDM) in Dubai is estimated to be worth more than 5.7 million US dollars, or about 3.5 billion Cfa francs.

This is the outcome of an analysis of the database of the Organisation Centre for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), to which we had access in February 2023. In 2019 and 2020, this American research organisation responsible for combating illicit networks that threaten peace and security around the world identified investors from the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) in Dubai in 2019 and 2020, with the exception of Equatorial Guinea.

The member of Parliament (MP) and her children own eight flats in Dubai. A property asset estimated at 10 billion Cfa francs. When contacted over the phone on 14 November 2023 about her investments in Dubai, the MP asked us to call her back on Friday 17 November 2023. However, all our attempts to contact her again over the phone for several weeks were unsuccessful investment in Dubai’s by Officials. Even questions sent by Whatsapp went unanswered.

Government officials who build in a foreign country cannot hide. There is a special law applicable in this case, and it is impossible for their investments to escape the law. However, all these public figures generally use fake names, which may be their friends, relatives or children », notes Dr Louison Essomba, an expert in public governance.

Dorothée Nyodog born Ngo Mboua, current mayor of the Pouma Municipality, in the Sanaga-Maritime department of the Littoral region, is another elected representative whose name appears in C4ADS’ list. She owns an 87m2 flat in Dubai, estimated at USD 208 473.08 i.e. about 125 709 267.24 Cfa francs. Contacted by telephone on Tuesday 23 January 2024, the mayor said: « I can’t answer, I’m in a meeting investment in Dubai’s by Officials. » We suggested calling her back later, but she did not confirm our suggestion. Before hanging up, Mrs Nyodog pointed out that she was very busy and that the network might be unstable for the next call investment in Dubai’s by Officials. These responses did not deter us. We contacted her again the following day, Wednesday 24 January 2024. The mayor said she was in a meeting and asked us to call back between 5 and 6 p.m. Except that by then her phone was off.

In addition to these local councillors, Mohamadou Dabo, the former South Korean Consul General in Cameroon and businessman who died in December 2022, is also among the Cameroonian investors in Dubai. At the time of data collection, he owned a 106.11 m2 hotel apartment in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, valued at USD 510 743.06 or 306 936 200 Cfa francs.

Through his company Moda Holding Corporation, Mohamadou Dabo benefited from numerous contracts awarded by the State of Cameroon, sometimes in violation of procedures, as in the case of the Covid-19 contract. Before his death, the businessman was cited in a report by the Audit Bench concerning suspected excessive invoicing for Covid-19 screening tests in contracts signed with the Cameroon government in 2020. Joseph Dion Ngute, Cameroon’s Prime Minister, awarded a contract worth nearly 25 billion Cfa francs to the businessman’s companies in June of that year.

Regarded as a business enthusiast in Cameroon, the late honorary diplomat was also sought after as a bridge to Cameroon’s private sector. In 2020, he led a delegation of officials from the British firm The First Group to Cameroon to present investment in Dubai’s real estate sector.


The American research organisation C4ADS has identified nearly 117 assets of the above-mentioned CEMAC officials in the Gulf Tiger City. The total value of these assets, estimated at USD 54 592 582.45 or about 33 271 503 967 billion Cfa francs, raises a number of questions, especially for several names cited in cases of misappropriated assets in their own countries, whom we have identified in this database. The database shows that 98% of the properties listed are in the real estate sector, including flats, villas and hotels, located in residential areas or commercial zones: such as Business Day, the fourth-best rental district in Dubai investment in Dubai’s by Officials. The remaining 2% are shops and businesses.

From businessmen to private individuals known (or almost known) to the general public, including politicians, members of the government, local councillors, magistrates, general managers, public and semi-public companies, their spouses, children or relatives, there are many who own substantial property assets in Dubai.

According to business lawyer Jacques Jonathan Nyemb « investing in Dubai is not in itself a reprehensible act, a criminal act or an act of tax evasion. It may be logical for an economic player to want to diversify his investments, including personal investments or sometimes even simply for leisure purposes, or even questions of investment security. » He highlights that:  » The question of the origin of funds can arise when politicians are involved investment in Dubai’s by Officials. At the moment it’s not about investing in Dubai, the question here is where the funds that are sometimes used for these investments come from and whether these funds have a credible, dubious or fraudulent origin. »

For nearly eight months, our team has been dissecting the C4ADS database, identifying the real estate transactions of people close to political leaders, individuals involved in corruption, others targeted by economic sanctions for human rights violations…

Of the five countries involved in this survey, namely Chad, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad is the country with the highest investments in this Emirati city. With around ten Chadian investors, these assets are estimated at USD 14 507 939.29 million, or nearly 9 billion Cfa francs.

Hissein Bourma Ibrahim is one of the most prominent Chadian property owners in Dubai. A former director of the Société des Hydrocarbures du Tchad who has already been named in the Panama papers, Hissein Bourma Ibrahim, who is also the brother-in-law of the late Chadian president Idriss Déby, owns a villa, seven flats and a shopping centre. The total value of his investments is estimated at USD 7 102 785 64 or 4 237 379 857 Cfa francs.

Our research shows that other members of this family spent more than $2.3 million (1,384,593,100 Cfa francs) to buy flats in upmarket areas such as Business Bay and Al Warsan First in Dubai. They have been linked to the management of oil revenues and finances in Chad, one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

In Chad, the late president’s elder brother, Daoussa Idriss, who is also the Managing Director of a construction company, owns a villa in the Al Thanyah Fifth residential area, valued at 1 778 176 Euros, or nearly 1 091 063 899 Cfa francs. Endowed with a superb collection of villas in a variety of configurations, Al Thanyah Fifth is a forefront residential community, a self-contained neighbourhood with a large number of villas and flats offering affordable homes.

investment in Dubai’s by Officials Gabon, Congo Brazzaville

Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo, the former President of the Constitutional Court (1991-September 2023) of Gabon, commonly known as « 3M », is one of the leading figures in the CEMAC region who features in the C4ADS database. Already mentioned in cases of ill-gotten gains in 2022, she and her children own numerous properties (villas and flats) in Dubai. The family’s real estate assets in the UAE are estimated at 3 459 128.18 Euros, or 2 122 472 623 Cfa francs. The list includes several Gabonese families. They range from the wealthiest to relatives of politicians and members of government, with assets amounting to more than 7.2 billion Cfa francs.

Among the Congolese included in the database, those close to the President of the Republic, Sassou Nguesso, are also identified. They account for some fifteen properties in Dubai, valued at nearly 9.5 million US dollars, or around 5.8 billion Cfa francs. Names such as Blandine Malila Lumande, the daughter-in-law of President Dénis Sassou Nguesso, and Raymond Zephirin Mboulou, Zephirin Mboulou, Minister of the Interior since 30 December 2007 (16 years) and MP for the Mpouya constituency since 1992, are mentioned. Contacted by telephone on 14 November 2023, Raymond Zephirin Mboulou said that « we got the wrong person, and that he has no assets in Dubai »

According to Sassoufit.org, a collective advocating for change in the Congo, Zéphirin Mboulou owns five properties in Dubai, including a 60 square metre flat in the Artesia Tower in Damac Hills, a flat in the Celestia Tower and a three-bedroom flat in Harbour Point Tower 2. The purchase price of these properties varies between USD 1.1 and USD 2.5 million. The chairman of the Sassoufit movement Andréa Gombet points out that « most of these properties are the fruit of corruption to rig the elections: the date of acquisition coincides exactly with the election period in Congo Brazzaville ».

Joseph Lwanga Nguefack Sonkoué, investment adviser and representative of Lagertha Africa, explains why the country has chosen to invest in Dubai:  « Dubai has been aggressively promoting foreign investment for some years now.   It was a desert just a few decades ago! These investments, particularly in real estate, are accompanied by incentives for residence permits and the like! This gives a choice to every African who can afford this luxury to take advantage to guarantee themselves a stay there!”

Unenforced Laws

Despite the existence of  Law No. 003/2006 of 25 April 2006 on the declaration of assets and property, in application of Article 66 of the Constitution of Cameroon, most Cameroonian officials have not declared their assets. Section 3 stipulates: (1) Mandatory declaration of assets and property shall concern ail property. (2) Declaration shall concern movable and immovable property and tangible and intangible property in and out of the country and belonging to the person liable, his spouse and their minor descendants right up to the first degree investment in Dubai’s by Officials. (3)  It shall also concern any benefit enjoyed by the person concerned and his minor descendants of the first degree or beneficiary ascendant, as well as any interest they hold in any private company whatsoever. (4) Household equipment and personal effects shall not be subject to the declaration of assets and property.

The situation is the same for those in the Congo, where Law No. 4/2019 of 7 February 2019 on the obligation for citizens elected or appointed to high office to declare their assets requires them to do so. This is also deplorable in Gabon, where the provision of Article 5 of Law no. 002/2003 of 17 May 2003 is not complied with, and in the CAR, which has a Law on the declaration of assets that incorporates the provisions of the Constitution of 30 March 2016.

Dr Louison Essomba, a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Douala reiterates that « if there were good governance and the application of the law on the declaration of assets and wealth, which, in my opinion, is the barometer of the fight against corruption and illicit enrichment, then we would have to track down all those who enrich themselves on the back of the State’s wealth. »

In the same vein, Jean Mballa Mballa, Executive Director of the African Regional Centre for Endogenous and Community Development (CRACEC) and member of the ITIE-Cameroon Committee, points out that « it is worrying to see public officials such as members of parliament, heads of state and judges investing in Dubai without a clear declaration of their assets, especially when the origin of their wealth cannot be traced. Dubai is often seen as a haven for capital, due to its advantageous tax regulations and opacity regarding beneficial ownership.« 

As part of this investigation, we contacted Cameroon’s Directorate General of Taxes (DGI) by email, in vain, to find out whether there are any provisions governing this type of investment, and whether there are any Cameroonian investors whose funds may be of dubious origin. We also contacted the communication unit by telephone and Whatsapp messaging, to no avail.

investment in Dubai’s by Officials Tax Havens

These investments in Dubai seem to represent only a fraction of the assets of these prominent figures from the CEMAC region, most of whom, with their controversial fortunes, are under investigation for various financial offences or crimes. Particularly in their country of origin, in Europe, in the USA, or in tax havens abroad. With the property industry booming in recent years, the Emirati capital which is one of the most spectacular cities in terms of architecture and real estate, is offering tax breaks to foreign investors.

« Oligarchs from Central Africa are fleeing democratic countries to Asia because their operations are not justified. There are things happening in Dubai, and we should look beyond the festive aspect … because Dubai is like a financial centre for money laundering and trading in metals from Africa« , says Andréa Gombet, an activist and founder of the Sassoufit collective (an organisation that brings together citizens against kleptocracy, editor’s note) investment in Dubai’s by Officials. A point of view shared by Claude Hyepdo, Coordinator of Transparency International Cameroon. He confides that « Dubai has become the new Eldorado for our authorities, especially given its very discrete nature. What’s more, it’s the main market for Cameroonian gold. »

According to the (EU Tax Observatory), the Dubai property market is estimated to be worth around USD 533 billion in 2020, equivalent to a global GDP of about 0.6% investment in Dubai’s by Officials. Much more than just a tax haven for potential property investors, Dubai is also known for being one of the biggest traders of illicit gold from Africa in Cameroon, for example, more than 11 tonnes of gold is exported each year to the UAE, whereas the country officially records barely 500 kg each year, according to a study by CED Cameroon and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

In an article  published on the CDTM Network Platform, international movement fighting for the abolition of illegitimate debts, social emancipation and respect for nature, « The European Union has estimated that stolen African assets held in foreign bank accounts are equivalent to more than half of the continent’s external debt » investment in Dubai’s by Officials. Every year, Africa loses an estimated 88.6 billion US dollars to illicit capital flight, equivalent to 3.7% of the continent’s gross domestic product (UNCTAD, 2020). Following the publication of this report in 2021, Cristina Duarte, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Adviser for Africa, said: « The 88.6 billion dollars that Africa loses each year is not just a figure. It has to be seen in terms of missed development opportunities, lost livelihoods and increased poverty. »  These comments were relayed by the Afrique Renouveau platform. Indeed, most of the countries mentioned above are experiencing governance problems that are holding back their development and making them less attractive to investors.

In Chad, for example, « the consequences of the exploitation of Chadian oil have been followed by enormous financial flows. This internal resource has created a social imbalance and has only enriched the elites in power. This illicit enrichment is most often channelled through state entities such as customs, tax authorities and the awarding of major contracts investment in Dubai’s by Officials. Several reports show that these sums are invested in tax havens to the detriment of local development« , explains Nadibigue Pinah Padja, President of the NGO Transparace+, an organisation that fights corruption in Chad investment in Dubai’s by Officials.

The report produced by the EU Tax Observatory in May 2022 shows that most of Dubai’s offshore real estate is divided equally between three regions:  the Middle East and North Africa; South Asia; Europe and Central Asia. Only 15% is held by owners from sub-Saharan Africa, North America, East Asia and the Pacific.

The attractive and economic assets of Dubai are most lacking in the CEMAC. Despite their advantageous environment, with a subsoil rich in natural resources, these African countries are struggling to develop and achieve financial autonomy. According to the BNP Paribas, economic research portal, in 2021, this economic zone had a debt ratio of 58.1%, while « according to the IMF, the UAE’s sovereign debt was equivalent to 33% of its GDP in 2021″. The report on the macroeconomic outlook for the CEMAC countries estimates their debt ratio in 2023 at 50.3%, compared with 48.3% in 2024 investment in Dubai’s by Officials.

Ghislaine DEUDJUI, Michèle EBONGUE, Marie Louise MAMGUE

This work was carried out as part of the ODACA project, initiated by ADISI-CAMEROUN with technical support from C4ADS and financial backing from OSiwa.
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