Tags: EU | Equatorial | Guinea | France

Son of Equatorial Guinea's President on Trial in France

Monday, 02 January 2017 06:00 AM

PARIS (AP) — The son of Equatorial Guinea's president is going on trial in France accused of buying real estate, sports cars and other luxury goods with public funds from his country.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also Equatorial Guinea's second vice president, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of corruption, money laundering and embezzlement after a years-long investigation.

Obiang's lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, said he will ask for a delay in proceedings when the hearing starts Monday, arguing that his client — who is not expected to attend the trial — did not get enough time to prepare his defense. It is unclear whether Obiang is in France.

The International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest court, refused to order France to halt the prosecution last month after Equatorial Guinea argued that Obiang had immunity.

Obiang's trial came after two non-governmental organizations targeting corruption and an association of Congolese citizens living abroad launched a lawsuit in France nearly 10 years ago. Known in France as the case of the "ill-gotten gains," the complaint accused several African heads of state, including the late Gabon president Omar Bongo, of embezzling state funds during or after their tenure to buy properties in France.

According to court documents, Obiang used to book hotel rooms in luxury Parisian palaces during his stays in France and later bought a mansion located on one of the most sought-after avenues in the French capital. He also bought about 15 cars in France for 5.7 million euros (currently $6 million) and once splashed nearly 20 million euros at an arts auction.

The case has put a spotlight on the lavish lifestyle of Obiang, whose father is Africa's longest-serving president. Equatorial Guinea is rich in oil and gas, but most of the country's population still lives in poverty.

The same cannot be said for the ruling elite. In 2011, French authorities seized assets from Obiang's Paris mansion including Ferrari and Bugatti Veyron sports cars, expensive works of art and luxury suits and shoes.

The International Court of Justice, however, ruled that France must treat the mansion as Equatorial Guinea's diplomatic mission. French authorities have searched the building in the past as part of their money laundering investigation.

The French case is not the first time Obiang's opulent way of life has come under scrutiny. In 2014, he reached a deal with U.S. authorities to sell a Malibu mansion, a Ferrari and Michael Jackson memorabilia to raise more than $30 million. The U.S. had in 2011 filed claims against Obiang's U.S.-based assets worth more than $70 million, alleging they were the proceeds of corruption. Swiss authorities have also begun a preliminary investigation into Obiang.

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The son of Equatorial Guinea's president is going on trial in France accused of buying real estate, sports cars and other luxury goods with public funds from his country.Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also Equatorial Guinea's second vice president, faces up to 10...
EU,Equatorial,Guinea,France
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2017-00-02
Monday, 02 January 2017 06:00 AM
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