A former French spy has been murdered six months into an investigation for allegedly plotting to assassinate an opponent of Congolese President Sassou Nguesso, according to The Times.
The body of 57-year-old Daniel Forestier was found with five bullet wounds, including to the head and heart, in a remote car park near his home on the shores of Lake Geneva in the Alps.
France Bleu radio in Haute-Savoie said Forestier lived in the village of Lucinges, nine miles (15km) from where his body was found, with his wife and two children and had served as a local councillor until he was put under investigation last September.
The public prosecutor said the killing was probably a settling of scores. “There’s almost no doubt about it,” Philippe Toccanier said. Forestier had been shot five times in the thorax and the head, he added. -The Guardian
Forestier spent 14 years working for France's General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), which is tasked with so-called black operations, including assassination, abduction and sabotage. The former agent was arrested after French officers with the internal security service (DGSI) reportedly overheard him admitting to spearheading a plot to murder former Congolese General Ferdinand Mbaou, the former head of Congo's presidential guard.
Mr Forestier, a career soldier who worked in the clandestine DGSE “action service”, had been notified of preliminary charges of heading a plan to kill General Ferdinand Mbaou, the former head of the presidential guard of Congo who has lived in France for two decades. Mr Forestier was also charged with possessing explosives. -The Times
The ex-French spy was charged along with former DGSE colleague Bruno Susini.
Mbou - who has been living in France for 20 years, is seen as an opponent of President Nguesso. In 2015, Mbou survived being shot in the back as he left his home.
Mbaou, 62, was head of the presidential guard to Sassou-Nguesso’s predecessor, Pascal Lissouba, but fled the country when Lissouba was overthrown in a coup in 1997. He has been a fierce critic of the Sassou-Nguesso regime since and still has a bullet lodged near his heart from a previous assassination attempt. He told Paris Match last year he only learned of the plot to kill him when he read about it in the French newspapers. -The Guardian
French media has speculated that Forestier's murder was either revenge, or the elimination of a witness. Meanwhile, some have suggested that the French secret service - which is still deeply involved in Africa - may have played a part.
"I know why they want to kill me. I was warned and also I received threats in text messages. I tried to warn the [security] services but they didn’t do anything," said Mbaou.
Lawyers for Forestier, Susini and Mbaou have all weighed in on the murder which French prosecutors in Lyons are treating as a hit-job.
Cédric Huissoud, Mr Forestier’s lawyer, emphasised that the former agent had always denied involvement in the alleged plot.
Marie-Alix Canu-Bernard, a lawyer for Mr Susini, said: “This affair has been strange since the outset. The acts that the two former agents were accused of are vehemently contested.” The agents had been “very worried about their safety”, she added.
General Mbaou’s lawyers said: “No one involved in this case is safe, starting with our client.” The general said that he had been saddened by Mr Forestier’s death but added: “He wasn’t alone. There are other suspects who will enable justice to be done.” -The Times
Forestier made no secret about his cloak-and-dagger past, penning several espionage thrillers while running a café in Lucinges, a small town near the Swiss border.
"He’d written several spy novels, but he never gave us any details of what he did," Lucinges resident Jean-Luc Soulat told a local radio station. "He was very well settled here. He ran a bar-tobacconist here and only 15 days ago he helped me organise the opening of a village hall."