According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States Justice Department has on Wednesday moved to seize a Malibu mansion, Gulfstream jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s agriculture minister. Prosecutors in the U.S. say the Minister amassed a fortune through theft of his country’s resource wealth. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, is the son of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who came to power in the Middle African country of about 668,000 in a 1979 coup. In the complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles, the Justice Department accused Mangue of plundering billions of dollars of his country’s resource wealth to buy flashy cars, racing boats, a $38 million Gulfstream jet and the $30 million Malibu mansion.
A spokesman for Mangue didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The family has in the past repeatedly denied stealing state funds. As early as 2003, Global Witness helped to expose how the Obiang regime had stashed millions of dollars in accounts at the prestigious Riggs bank in Washington DC. Our 2004 report Time For Transparency showed how Riggs had helped Obiang and his family buy three mansions just outside the American capital. Riggs was subsequently brought down in the aftermath of a Senate committee investigation into its activities banking for corrupt dictators including Obiang and Pinochet, and was sold off at huge discount. Since then, Global Witness has repeatedly raised questions about how Equatorial Guinea’s natural resource wealth is managed and about the relationship between the regime and its bankers. The investigations have exposed how the President’s son and government minister, Teodorin Obiang, has spent millions of dollars on sustaining a playboy lifestyle in Europe and the U.S. while reportedly earning a government salary of only a few thousand dollars a month. According to Global Witness, a number of banks, including Wachovia, Bank of America and UBS, allowed Teodorin to funnel over $100 million into the U.S. in a space of two years, which he used to buy a $35 million Malibu mansion and a $33 million private jet.
On the 1st October 2011 Britain’s Mail Online reported that eleven supercars worth up to £5 million have been seized from outside an African dictator’s Paris mansion as part of a foreign aid money-laundering investigation. The vehicles, which included two Bugatti Veyrons, a Ferrari 599 GTO and a Maserati MC12 are all registered to Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of Equatorial Guinea. He is one of numerous African heads of state who regularly receive vast handouts in foreign aid – including British cash via European funding. According to the newspaper, police swooped on his £15 million mansion on the prestigious Avenue Foch, close to the Arc de Triumphe, this morning, piling all of the vehicles on to a car transporter. They are all thought to be ‘ill-gotten gains’ bought so as to hide huge amounts of cash smuggled into France from Africa, said a police source. ‘There is an on-going judicial investigation into money laundering and other crimes related to the receipt of foreign aid,’ the source added. ‘These seizures have resulted from this enquiry.’ The cars, which all appeared to be new, also included an Aston Martin V8 600lm, Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe, a Porsche Carrera GT, and a Ferrari Enzo, as well as various Bentleys.
The Mail Online also stated that Obiang Nguema, who is the current chairman of the African Union, was not thought to be present at the time of the seizures, though a member of his staff told police that the cars were ‘mainly used by his son, Teodorin Obiang’. The Supreme Court of France has appointed an investigating judge to conduct a judicial inquiry into claims that Obiang Nguema has used state funds to purchase property include the Avenue Foch house. Equatorial Guinea is oil rich, but poverty remains rife and there are regular allegations of high-level corruption, especially by Obiang Nguema and his eldest son, Teodorin. All of the cars have been impounded and – if the Obiang Nguemas are unable to get them back – they are likely to be auctioned. Earlier this year it emerged that billions in foreign aid was being used to fund a multi-million-pound Paris property portfolio for African dictators. Scores of the most luxurious houses and flats in the French capital are now owned by men who regularly receive the money. According to the paper, which is one of Britain’s most respected print media, All of the cars have been impounded and – if the Obiang Nguemas are unable to get them back – they are likely to be auctioned. Earlier this year it emerged that billions in foreign aid was being used to fund a multi-million-pound Paris property portfolio for African dictators. Scores of the most luxurious houses and flats in the French capital are now owned by men who regularly receive the money.
They also include Ali Bongo, President of Gabon, with at least 39 properties, and Denis Sassou-Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo, who has 16. Obiang Nguema’s six-floor period building is used by his family on shopping trips to France, while Obiang Nguema – who came to power in a bloody 1979 coup – prefers to occupy a 2,000 pounds -plus-a-night suite at the Plaza Athenee Hotel, off the Champs Elysee. The astonishing details are in a report handed to Paris prosecutors by anti-corruption groups Transparency International and Sherpa.
In its report, the Wall Street Journal also stated that a forfeiture complaint which was filed Oct. 13 and unsealed Tuesday, seeks the mansion, a 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO and the Jackson memorabilia – including a jewel-encrusted glove that Jackson wore during his “Bad” tour, valued at $275,000, two of the late pop star’s trademark fedoras and a signed jacket like the one he wore in the music video “Thriller.” A separate complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks the private jet.The complaint alleges broad and systemic corruption by both father and son, who was placed in charge of the country’s forest industry in 1998, at the age of 30. The ruling family and associates pulled freely from a government account set up for oil-company payments, grossly inflated government contracts for companies they owned or controlled, and extorted companies seeking to lease land, the Department says. “By taking action to seize this house, the U.S. is finally starting to send a strong message that it does not want to be a safe haven for ill-gotten loot and vast, unexplained wealth,” said Robert Palmer, a campaigner with Global Witness, an anti-corruption group that has long pressured Western governments to crack down on Obiang. “This should keep suspected kleptocrats with assets in the U.S. awake at night.”