December 9, 2011
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The government of Equatorial Guinea is spending $77 million to construct a new luxury presidential guest house and $19 million on a new Basilica.

The government of Equatorial Guinea is spending $77 million to construct a new luxury presidential guest house and $19 million on a new Basilica, examples of the type of showcase infrastructure projects the government has spent billions on in recent months. Both projects are being built in Mongomo, President Obiang’s hometown.

President Obiang inaugurated the new Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on December 7 in an elaborate ceremony attended by more than a thousand guests. Notable guests included Cardinal Francis Arinze, sent as a representative of Pope Benedict XVI, the President of the Central African Republic François Bozizé, the former president of Sao Tome and Principe Fadrique Melo de Menezes, and the representative of President Paul Biya of Cameroon, External Relations Minister Henri Eyebe Ayissi.

The government awarded a $77 million contract to the South Korean company SsangYong Engineering and Construction for the construction of the “Mongomo Leader’s Club,” a luxurious compound for entertaining presidential guests. According to the construction firm, the compound will have a total area of 7.537 meters. Built to resemble a five-star hotel, the guest house’s amenities will include a reception room for the President’s exclusive use, a VIP theater with seating for 150 people, a beauty salon, a restaurant, a conference hall, a fitness center, and a casino.

According to the company’s website, the client for the guest house is Abayak S.A., a shadowy company controlled by President Obiang and his family with interests in cement, real estate, timber, cocoa, and other industrial sectors. An internal memo from Riggs Bank, disclosed during a 2004 U.S. Senate investigation into corruption and money-laundering, described the company as “a significant earner of income for the president.” When an American journalist visited the supposed headquarters of Abayak S.A. in Bata in 2004, he discovered unfurnished empty offices. Asked by the journalist where one could find Abayak’s real headquarters, Gabriel Nguema Lima, Obiang’s son and the country’s current Delegate Minister of Mines and Energy, replied, “maybe my father’s house.”

The 2004 Senate report revealed that U.S. oil companies made a number of questionable payments to Abayak S.A. that benefitted Obiang and his family. For example, in 2001, Exxon Mobil leased a large building in Malabo through Obiang’s wife, acting on behalf of Abayak S.A., for $175,000. Abayak holds a 15 percent financial interest in Mobil Oil Guinea Ecuatorial, the local affiliate of Exxon Mobil. In 2004, when Marathon Oil negotiated a deal to purchase land from Abayak S.A., its check for $611,000 was addressed to President Obiang.

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