Teodorin's TroublesOctober 3, 2012
Authorities in France and the U.S. have taken action in their corruption investigations into the activities of Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the son of President Obiang.
French judges have approved an international arrest warrant for Teodorín as part of a probe into the “ill-gotten gains” of President Obiang and two other African Heads-of-State. Teodorín is the target of ongoing government corruption investigations in the United States and France.
French investigating judges Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman reportedly requested the warrant after the government of Equatorial Guinea denied the judges’ request to question Teodorín in court. The judges believe there is evidence to suggest that Teodorín purchased properties in France by fraud.
On February 14, 2012, French authorities began searching an upscale Paris residence, reportedly owned by Teodorín, as part of this same investigation. According to media reports, the Paris residence is a six story building with 101 rooms and a view of the Arc de Triomphe. Police discovered "hundreds of treasures," including antiques, valuable works of art, and a Louis XIV desk with an estimated value of 1.5 million Euros. In total, the contents inside the residence may be worth more than 40 million Euros. The raid concluded on February 23, after the police had reportedly seized three truckloads of valuable artwork and antiquities.
On July 19, 2012, French authorities seized the Paris mansion, estimated to be worth $100-150 million.
After French authorities seized 11 luxury cars belonging to Teodorín last September, President Obiang appointed his son Deputy Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in a transparent attempt to provide him with diplomatic immunity. During the February 14 raid on Teodorín’s residence, occupants at the house, including Teodorin’s lawyer, reportedly alleged that the building was protected from search because it is the residence of Equatorial Guinea’s UNESCO representative. Police reportedly did not discover any signs that the country's Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Mariola Bindang Obiang, was staying at the residence. The government of Equatorial Guinea has expressed its "indignation" at the "illegitimate persecution" on the residence, stating that the government, and not any individual, owns the residence. At a press conference, Teodorin's lawyer stated that the property has been registered as a diplomatic residence since 2011.
In September 2012, the government of Equatorial Guinea asked the International Court of Justice to rule against France and require it to drop the arrest warrant against Teodorin and return his seized property. The Court cannot take up the case without France's approval.
In October 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-kleptocracy division filed forfeiture complaints in the District of Columbia District Court and Central California District Court against goods purchased by Teodorín. The complaints seek to seize more than $70m worth of Teodorín’s assets purchased in the U.S., including his $30m mansion in Malibu, a $38.5m Gulfstream jet, a half-million dollar Ferrari, and more than $1m worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including “one white crystal-covered ‘Bad Tour’ glove.” The complaints allege that Teodorín and other government officials enriched themselves through a variety of illegal schemes, including embezzlement, extortion, and misappropriation of government funds.
On June 11, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amended forfeiture complaint against Teodorin's assets. The complaint alleges that Teodorin spent more than $300 million on luxury items between 2000 and 2011, including more than $130 million on properties around the world and $45 million on art by Renoir and other famous painters. The amended complaint provides details of the alleged schemes Teodorín used to defraud U.S. banks and extort money using his position as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. The full amended complaint can be read here.
Teodorín’s lawyers recently filed a motion in which they argue the case should be dismissed on the grounds that it would "infringe Equatorial Guinea's sovereign right to create, interpret, and enforce its own laws and will significantly hinder the existing cooperative, friendly relationship" between the United States and President Obiang’s regime.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s allegations are based in part on details that emerged from investigations by the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2004 into alleged foreign corruption by members of the Obiang family and its close political associates. The Senate’s 2010 investigation accused Teodorín of using shell companies to launder more than $100 million into the U.S.
In response to corruption allegations, Teodorín reportedly stated to U.S. Embassy officials in Equatorial Guinea: “I’ve been very lucky in business, and I like to live well.”
In 2011, Global Witness reported that Teodorín commissioned plans for a $380 million superyacht. The story received considerable media attention. In response, a spokesman for the Equatoguinean government confirmed that Teodorín “requested a sketch of what building a yacht would entail, and then dismissed the idea of buying it.”
This past Christmas, Teodorin made a multi-week tour across the country, distributing a reported "one million toys" to children. (Click here to watch video)
In January 2012, Teodorin paid the national soccer team at least $2 million of his own money as bonuses for winning two games during the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which Equatorial Guinea co-hosted with Gabon.
Click here to sign our petition asking the French Foreign Ministry to deny Teodorin diplomatic immunity.
Click here to watch the CNBC investigative report Filthy Rich, which documents Teodorin's luxurious lifestyle in the U.S. and raises serious concerns that his wealth may not have been obtained through legitimate means.
Click here to listen to a BBC report about Teodorin's opulent lifestyle.