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Are videos of military officers seizing cash from ex-Gabon officials true?

On Thursday, August 30, 2023, a group of military officers successfully deposed Gabon President Ali Bongo and his government in a bloodless coup d’etat.

The government was toppled at dawn, a few hours after the country’s electoral commission had declared victory for Bongo in its August 26 general elections.

Ali Bongo has been president of Gabon since 2009, taking over from his father, who ruled from 1967 to 2009.  

The putschists accuse the president and other officials of treason, embezzlement, and corruption, among other allegations.

According to CNN, the president and some close relations have been placed under house arrest.

The incident has gained global media attention and dominated Twitter trends in countries including Ghana.

Screenshot of historical trends in Ghana (August 31 – September 1, 2023).

Found in the mix of tweets about the happenings in Gabon were different videos that suggest that huge sums of money had been retrieved from former government officials, some of whom were accosted in their attempt to flee.

Tweets like this and this have gone viral, with the videos shared on other social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

One of the videos has a caption: “Gabon’s Ousted President Ali Bongo’s Deputy Caught Transporting Billions of CFA Using His Car.”

Another also reads: “Gabon’s military seizes stash of cash at the residence of the former Chief of Staff, Ian Ghislain Ngoulou.”

DUBAWA found that two different videos had gone viral with the same claim.

Screenshot from viral video 1

Claims related to video 1 have been widely reported on different online news platforms, including here, here and here.

Screenshot from viral video 2


Video 1

Given that old videos often circulated when such major developments occur, we captured different visual frames from Video 1 and subjected them to Google and Yandex reverse image searches.

The results show that the video is an old material that already exists on the internet.

One of the links is that of 76-year-old former president of the Gabonese National Assembly, Guy Nzouba-Ndama, arrested on Saturday, September 17, 2022 with suitcases filled with several bank notes.

This is confirmed by several news reports such as this from VOA and this fromTV5Monde.

A video of the incident is also shared here.

DUBAWA’s further checks confirmed the case and found that since it happened in 2022, it has no connection with the August 29 coup d’etat in Gabon.

Video 2

A reverse image search was also conducted on portions of Video 2. The results pointed to the same claims, suggesting no such video was uploaded online.

A freelance journalist in Gabon, Bridget Mba, in a WhatsApp response to DUBAWA, said Video 2 is legitimate and accurately captures the seizure of a large sum of cash in the home of Ian Ghislain Ngoulou, chief of staff of Ali Bongo’s son, Noureddin Bongo-Valentin.

“This is true…. That is Ian Ghislain Ngoulou with the public prosecutor and the national police in the room… The video was played on national television,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Aljazeera has also confirmed the video to be from Gabon and connected to the recent military coup. 

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