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Teodorín N. O. Mangue, Son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, Faces Justice in Paris

Teodorín N. O. Mangue and his father at the United Nations – public domain

Despite his attorneys’ many objections, the trial of Mr. Teodorín Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president and son of the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, opened in Paris on June 19, 2017. The Parisian court will examine the charges against Teodorín, including “laundering of misused public funds”, “embezzlement of public funds”, “violation of the public trust”, and “corruption”. The suit was brought by two non-governmental organizations, Sherpa and Transparency International.

The website ccfd-terresolidaire.org explains the origin of this case of “ill-gotten wealth“:

En mars 2007, le CCFD-Terre solidaire mettait en ligne un document de travail intitulé « Biens mal acquis… profitent trop souvent. La fortune des dictateurs et les complaisances occidentales ».

Téléchargée plus de 100 000 fois et support des plaintes déposées en France contre Omar Bongo, Denis Sassou Nguesso et Teodoro Obiang Nguema, et en Espagne contre ce dernier, cette étude allait faire date.

Deux ans plus tard, en 2009, l’étude fut entièrement réécrite et actualisée dans un nouveau rapport actualisé« Biens mal acquis, à qui profite le crime  ? ». Ce rapport passait en revue les avoirs détournés de plus de 30 dirigeants de pays en développement.

Le CCFD-Terre Solidaire estime qu’au cours des dernières décennies, entre 105 et 180 milliards de dollars ont été volés par une trentaine de dirigeants autoritaires et kleptocrates de plusieurs continents (Afrique, Asie, Amérique du Sud).  Pour leur part, la Banque Mondiale et les Nations unies estiment que ce sont entre 20 et 40 milliards de dollars qui, chaque année, fuient les pays en développement du fait de la corruption.

In March 2007, CCFD-Terre Solidaire (Catholic Committee Against Hunger and For Development) posted a discussion paper online entitled ‘Ill-Gotten Gains…Too Often Won: The Wealth of Dictators and Western Complacency’. The landmark study, downloaded over 100,000 times, backed up the charges made in France against Omar Bongo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema. The latter was also pursued in Spain. An updated version of the report was published two years later in 2009, entitled: ‘Ill-Gotten Gains… Cui Bono?’. This report reviewed the diverted assets of more than thirty leaders of developing countries. The CCFD-Terre Solidaire estimates that in the last few decades between 105 and 180 billion dollars were stolen by about thirty authoritative leaders and kleptocrats on several continents (Africa, Asia, and South America). For their part, the World Bank and the United Nations estimate that developing countries lose between 20 and 40 billion dollars each year to corruption.

The defendant, who could afford a long legal procedure, engaged in a battle with France that has now lasted ten years. Kouamé L. – PH. Arnaud KOUAKOU from burkina24.com lays out the facts:

Il y a dix ans de cela, les ONG Sherpa et Transparency International déposaient leurs premières plaintes à l’encontre de Teodorin Obiang pour des « biens mal acquis».

Le temps qui s’écoule entre ces premières plaintes et l’ouverture de ce procès est émaillé d’un enchaînement de rebondissements politico-judiciaires, marqué de saisies des biens du fils du président, voitures et montres de luxe et immobilier à Paris…

L’accusé n’a pas daigné faire le déplacement parisien et s’est fait représenter par trois avocats dont la stratégie, selon Africanews, a consisté à mettre en avant l’immunité diplomatique dont il bénéficie en tant que deuxième personnage d’un Etat.

Ten years ago, the NGOs Sherpa and Transparency International filed their first complaints against Teodorin Obiang concerning his ‘ill-gotten wealth’. From that point until the opening of the case against the president’s son, there was a series of legal twists and turns and asset seizures: exotic cars, luxury watches, and real estate in Paris. The defendant did not deign to travel to Paris and was represented by three lawyers there. According to Africanews, their strategy consisted in arguing that he benefits from diplomatic immunity, as he is vice president of a foreign government.

Though its population totals just 759,451, Equatorial Guinea is the seventh highest oil-producing country in Africa. In 2008, the income per capita reached the sum of $41,267.13 , higher than that of Germany in 2015, at $41,178.50. The country’s economy depends on this production and the income per capita decreased to $14,439.60 in 2015 due to the fall in oil prices over the past few years. This is still higher than several European Union member states, and Equatorial Guineans are the richest Africans on average.

 Unfortunately, this is only true in theory since the riches surging from under ground and sea are poorly distributed. Though the ruling class grew more wealthy, spending in the public domain didn’t increase. Summarizing a report it published, the human rights defender Human Rights Watch stated:

For example, the vaccination rates are some of the worst in the world. Vaccination against tuberculosis in newborn babies and infants fell from 99% in 1997 to 35% in 2015. More than half of the population of Equatorial Guinea does not have access to safe drinking water nearby, a rate which hasn’t changed since 1995. In 2012, 42% of primary school-aged children (46,000 children) did not attend school, ranking seventh in the world.

Prestige spending has increased, absorbing enormous sums for the benefit of a privileged minority. In a statement on hrw.org, researcher Sarah Saadoun called on President Macron to go further in the fight against money laundering and condemned such practices:

The most expensive and perplexing project is the new capital, Oyala, right in the middle of the jungle. It's the third capital in this country of one million inhabitants. After spending billions on the construction of ministerial buildings in Malabo, the current island capital, and in Bata, the continental capital, the government budgeted an additional eight billion dollars (more than seven billion euros) for Oyala according to the IMF, which estimates this would make up half of the country’s 2016 budget.

Troubling elements have led us to believe that this massive spending on infrastructure will likely be used for personal benefit. For instance, it seems that the president, the first lady and Teodorin together own the construction company and have a monopoly on cement imports. The new capital’s construction has also attracted foreign entities, including some French companies. One example is Egis Group, which is responsible for the design of the city.

Between prestigious residences in enchanting locations, luxury cars, collections of Hollywood and sports memorabilia, and tax havens, the vice president of Equatorial Guinea doesn’t hold back on his self-indulgence. For example, the site vesper.media reveals that the value of his two yachts, Ebony Shine, 75.75 meters long and Ice, 90 meters, is equivalent to ten times the annual education budget in Equatorial Guinea and seventeen times that of the public health. The maintenance alone of Ebony Shine would cost “approximately $800,000 per month, not including fuel”.

His father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been in power since 1979 and was reelected in 2016 with 93.7% of the vote. As usual, he named a new government in which the juiciest positions went to family members and allies. In an article entitled ‘Equatorial Guinea: The State in the Hands of the Presidential Family’, published last September, Ondo Ololobi lists the presidential family members who are part of the government and reveals the immense wealth of Mrs. Constancia Mangue de Obiang, the most powerful personage in the regime. Excerpt:

She is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s wife. The president has fallen completely under her influence. She uses all kinds of subterfuge and abuse of authority to elevate her first son, Teodorín Nguema Obiang Mangue, to the Equatorial Guinean presidency. She is very discreet, a multibillionaire, and she rarely appears on the political scene. She is, however, the one pulling the strings at the presidential palace behind the scenes. Through her cunning, she was able to place 30 out of 70 ministers (for a country of 710,000 inhabitants) in the government, all of whom come from the presidential clan.

The site diariorombe.es tells us that on the day the trial began, Mr. Jerónimo Osa Osa Ecoro, secretary general of the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial, or PDGE), invited the population to take part in a peaceful — but obligatory — demonstration of support in front of the embassy of France in Malabo. This baron among the barons, who seems to like cash, had his residence burglarized twice. The first time, the thieves allegedly got away with more than 39 billion FCFA [48,640,000 euros] .

 You can find all the reports published by Global Voices related to the investigation of the leaders of Equatorial Guinea here.

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