PARIS, 29 July 2021 – France’s highest court has upheld the conviction by two lower courts of the son of Equato-Guinean President found guilty of using public funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
The Cour de Cassation reaffirmed the convictions of Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue who is vice-president of Equatorial Guinea and the eldest son of the country’s long-serving president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbazogo.
He was found guilty of embezzling and laundering public funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
The decision means France has control over about $177 million in stolen assets confiscated in France that rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said need to be repatriated to help the poorest citizens of Equatorial Guinea.
The court cases revealed that Obiang Mangue had used the funds swindled to, among others, purchase a 101-room mansion on the exclusive Avenue Foch in Paris, along with a fleet of high-end cars, art, watches, designer clothes, and fine wines using a network of companies in the hope of covering up his tracks.
“Today is a huge victory in the fight to keep kleptocrats from robbing public resources to pay for lavish lifestyles abroad, denying Equatorial Guinea’s people their basic social and economic rights,” said Sarah Saadoun, who is the senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
So far, a total of $237 million has been seized by France, the United States and Switzerland after cases brought against Obiang Mangue.
Two anti-corruption organizations in France – Transparency International France and Sherpa – brought the case against Obiang Mangue in France back in 2008.
At the time, Obiang Mangue was the country’s agriculture and forestry minister. He was promoted to the rank of vice-president in 2016 in what rights groups say was an effort to grant him diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
Last July 20, France adopted a new law which requires seized assets in corruption cases to be returned to the public from whom they were stolen.
In 2011, the government of the United States seized over $70 million in assets belonging to Obiang Mangue.
Six days later (in 2017), Switzerland seized a super yacht worth $100 million belonging to the son of the president along with 25 cars.
In 2014 (three years after the initial ruling in the United States), Obiang Mangue agreed to forfeit $30 million and the U.S. Justice Department settled the case.
Switzerland closed their own investigations after Obiang Mangue forfeited the 25 cars which were sold at an auction, raising $27 million.
The funds forfeited in both the United States and Switzerland must be repatriated to the people of Equatorial Guinea, according to the deal reached with the justice departments in both countries.
Last July 23, the government of the United Kingdom (UK) sanctioned Obiang Mangue with a travel ban and a freeze on his assets in the UK and/or in British banks or British-affiliated banks.
Equatorial Guinea reacted angrily to the ruling by the court in London, threatening, among others, to shut down the country’s embassy in London.
Officials in Equatorial Guinea have criticized the court cases against Obiang Mangue as Neo-colonialist aimed at looting the country’s resources and witch hunt its leadership.
Malabo maintains that the rulings in the courts in the United States, Switzerland and France are based on what they call lies and fabrications.
Teodorin Obiang Mangue’s father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbazogo, has ruled the country for over 40 years following a bloody coup in which he reportedly assassinated his uncle who was then president of the country.