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France fines E. Guinea leader €30 million

February 10, 2020

The vice president of Equatorial Guinea, who is also the president's son, has been fined for alleged corruption. Authorities previously seized his €107 million Paris mansion and fleet of expensive cars.

Teodorin Obiang in 2013
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Leroy

A French court on Monday ruled against Teodorin Obiang, the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, in a yearslong embezzlement process launched by a group of anti-corruption NGOs.

Obiang was ordered to pay a €30 million ($32.9 million) fine. He also faces a suspended jail term of three years after a lower court found him guilty on a range of charges relating to graft and money laundering. Additionally, the Paris appeals court confirmed the seizure of his property, including a six-level mansion in Paris which had been valued at €107 million in 2012.

The ruling is an "important moment," said Marc-Andre Feffer of Transparency International France, which was among the NGOs spearheading the case.

It "seemed unacceptable to us for France to remain a place where foreign leaders could launder dirty money from the embezzlement of public funds by buying buildings and so on," he told the DPA news agency.

Teodorin Obiang cuts birthday cake with his mother and guests in the background
Teodorin Obiang (center) cuts his birthday cake at the 2013 birthday party near Equatorial Guinea capital MalaboImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Leroy

In addition to being the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, the 50-year-old Obiang is also the son and the most likely successor of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the impoverished country for more than four decades.

His legal team has one final option for appeal left — they could challenge the Monday veridict before the Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeals court for criminal cases.

Seized supercars fund projects

When French authorities first raided Obiang's Paris mansion in 2012, they also hired trucks to transport a fleet of luxury cars, including Bugattis, Ferraris, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Obiang has appealed to the International Court of Justice, arguing that his residence should be protected as a diplomatic building. A hearing on the issue has been scheduled in The Hague next week.

The politician claims his wealth comes from legitimate sources. His lawyers decried France for "meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state."

2015 Koenigsegg One seized from Teodorin Obiang
Swiss authorities sold a fleet of luxury cars, inlcuding this 2015 Koenigsegg One, that used to belong to Obiang Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Coffrini

Obiang has also been investigated by Swiss and US authorities. In 2014, the US Justice Department forced him to give up more than $30 million in assets, including a Malibu mansion. Last year, Swiss authorities sold a fleet of 25 supercars they had seized from Obiang. The officials raised €21 million from the sale and used to funds to finance social work in Equatorial Guinea.

dj/aw (AFP, dpa)