Son Of Equatorial Guinea President On Trial In France For Embezzlement
Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, has a luxury home on Paris’s Avenue Foch worth $112 million with gold-plated faucets, a spa, a disco, hair salon and a movie theater. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
He says he came by his income legally. Prosecutors believe Obiang exploited his position as forestry minister to get payments from companies investing in precious woods — one of Equatorial Guinea’s most valuable natural resources along with oil.
From RFI. Story by Tony Cross, AFP.
Lawyers for Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, called for his trial to be adjourned when it opened in Paris on Monday. In the first of what may be several trials of African leaders’ relatives, Obiang faces charges of corruption, embezzlement, misuse of public funds and breach of trust.
Obiang’s lawyers have fought to prevent the trial taking place, trying to have the charges dropped when they were first made in 2014 on the grounds that he had immunity as his country’s junior vice president and more recently appealing to the International Court of Justice to suspend the legal action against him.
Going into court on Monday they told reporters that Obiang, who was not present and gave his address as his country’s capital, Malabo, needed more time to prepare his defense, especially since he intended to call several witnesses who do not live in France.
Obiang could face up to 10 years in prison and the money-laundering charges could lead to a fine of up to a half the sum believed in question, in this case 100 million euros.
A former agriculture and forestry minister, Teodorin Obiang, 47, was promoted to the first vice presidency in June, putting him in line to succeed his father.
The inquiry into his assets in France, launched after legal complaints filed by NGOs Sherpa and Transparency International, revealed a lifestyle at odds with the average in a country where more than half of the population live beneath the poverty line:
A collection of cars including Bugattis, Ferraris and Rolls Royce was hauled away when investigators raided the Paris home in 2011;
He paid tailors off the Champs Elysées with briefcases full of cash.
Between 2004 and 2011 nearly $115 million US was paid by Equatorial Guinea’s national treasury into his personal account, according to investigators.
Although Obiang says that his income was all legally acquired, prosecutors believe he exploited his position as forestry minister to extract payments from companies investing in precious woods, which along with oil is the country’s most valuable natural resource.
As well as his luxury car collection and property in France, the U.S. and South Africa, he owns a hip-hop record label, TNO Entertainment.
In a 2014 settlement with U.S. prosecutors, Obiang agreed to hand over property worth $30 million including a villa in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and Michael Jackson memorabilia such as a crystal-covered glove worn by the singer.
The U.S. Justice Department said he “embarked on a corruption-fuelled spending spree in the United States” after racking up $300 million through embezzlement, extortion and money laundering.
The families of several African leaders have extensive properties in France, which has long had close ties to most of the rulers of its former colonies.
Equatorial Guinea is the continent’s third-biggest oil producer.
Read more at RFI.