Equatorial Guinea’s vice-president convicted of plundering public money to fund lavish lifestyle

30 Oct 17

Equatorial Guinea’s vice-president was convicted in the High Court of Paris last week of plundering public money to lead a lavish lifestyle in the European city.

Teodorin Obiang, who is also the eldest son of the country’s president, was given a three-year suspended jail sentence by the French court for using public money from the oil-rich but impoverished west African state.

The court issued a suspended €30m fine for money-laundering, embezzlement, corruption and abuse of trust. It also seized Obiang’s assets in France valued at more than €150m.

Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International, the anti-corruption campaign group which triggered the case along with an NGO, said: “This is a great day for the people of Equatorial Guinea and it is a strong signal to corrupt leaders all over the world that there is no impunity for grand corruption.”

She added: “There is an urgent need now for need laws to be put in place so that the property confiscated in cases like this is returned to its legitimate owners.”

The organisation called for the confiscated assets to be returned to the people of Equatorial Guinea and for measures to be put in place to ensure the assets are not allocated to the general state budget in France or returned to the Obiang government.

The judge found the president’s son has used his position of power as agriculture and forestry minister to draw off payments from timber firms, who were exporting from the country.

According to the court, Obiang had acquired a collection of luxury assets and properties in France in 2000-2011, including a €25m mansion.

He also had 18 cars worth a total of €7.4m, antiques and artworks worth about €25, and hundreds of suits costing up to €70,000 each.

Sarah Saadoun, business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “This verdict against Teodorin Obiang is further proof that rampant government corruption in Equatorial Guinea has robbed its people of their country’s oil wealth.

“The French government should repatriate the money ensuring it goes to key services where it should have been spent.”

Transparency International and the French civil society organisation Sherpa initiated the case against Obiang in 2008.

Transparency International said the son of Equatorial Guinea’s long-term president had siphoning off more than €200m of public money for personal purposes.

The case is one of three the organisations have brought against high-level government officials of different countries for allegedly laundering “ill-gotten gains” in France.

The president Teodoro Obiang has been leading the African country since 1979.

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