African dictator's French chateau sold off

A dilapidated French chateau that once belonged to the ruthless leader of the Central African Republic, the late Jean-Bedel Bokassa, was sold for €915,000 ($1.2 million) Wednesday, a lawyer said.

There were several bidders at the sale, held in a courthouse in the western Paris suburb of Versailles, but all were represented through their lawyers, said Pascal Koerfer, who represents the administrator of the Bokassa estate, called the "chateau d'Hardricourt."

He added that the identity of the buyer was not known. Whoever it was will have a major renovation job ahead.

The chateau, in the western Paris suburb of Hardricourt, is in bad shape. Koerfer estimated it would take up to €3 million ($3.9 million) to get the property — which comes with a vast tree-filled park, a house for a caretaker and a double garage — back into "livable" conditions.

Under French law, the sale will not be finalized until the end of the month, Koerfer said. After that, the estate's administrator will have the arduous task of dividing profits from the sale between an estimated 50 people who claim to be Bokassa's heirs. They include his children and others, Koerfer said.

At least one of Bokassa's children attended the sale, the lawyer said.

During his 13 years at the helm of the resource-rich African nation, Bokassa forged a reputation for ruthlessness and megalomania. In 1977, he had himself crowned "emperor" in a multimillion-dollar ceremony modeled on the coronation of France's Napoleon Bonaparte.

Bokassa was ousted in a French-backed 1979 coup, and after seven years in exile in Ivory Coast and France, he returned to Central African Republic in 1987 expecting to be welcomed. Instead, he became the first deposed African chief of state to be publicly tried on charges of murder, torture and cannibalism.

Bokassa was acquitted of the cannibalism charges, but convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison, and he was freed in September 1993.

Bokassa died three years later.


Angela Doland contributed to this report.