Swiss auction off seized supercar collection | News | DW | 28.09.2019
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Swiss auction off seized supercar collection

Swiss authorities confiscated 25 luxury cars from the playboy son of Equatorial Guinea's president in 2016. They will be auctioned on Sunday to pay for social programs in the West African nation.

A collection of luxury cars confiscated from the son of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema  following connections to money laundering are estimated to fetch 18.5 million Swiss francs ($18.67 million, €17.06 million) this weekend, according to Bonhams auction house.

The 25 cars, which were owned by Teodorin Nguema Obiang, will be auctioned on behalf of the state of Geneva, which plans to use the proceeds to fund social programs in the former Spanish colony.

A Lamborghini Veneno Roadster

A Lamborghini Veneno Roadster is one of the cars which belonged to Teodorin Obiang

Billed as "the Supercar Collection," the vehicles are on display alongside 50 other luxury cars at the prestigious Bonmont golf and country club in the Swiss village of Cheserex, ahead of the auction on Sunday. 

"We do have a collection of cars from the state of Geneva," confirmed James Knight, group chairman of Bonhams Motoring Department, adding that the 12th-century abbey where the auction will take place was "a great setting."

The Obiang cars do not have a minimum reserve price and have drawn interest from collectors in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and the Far East, said Knight.

A McLaren P1 Coupe

All but one of the 25 cars from the Obiang collection will be subject to import tax if they remain in Switzerland

Supercars seized as part of money laundering investigation

The Geneva police seized the 25 Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces in 2016 during an investigation into Teodorin Obiang's activities regarding money laundering and improper management of  public funds from Equatorial Guinea.

Following inquiries which stretched across multiple countries' judiciaries including known offshore tax havens such as the Cayman and Marshall Islands, Obiang and the Swiss Public Prosecutors Office reached an agreement to auction the vehicles and use the proceeds to fund social programs.

Read more: The 'who's who' of European tax havens

According to a statement released by Swiss authorities in February 2019, the program will be implemented transparently on the basis of an international agreement negotiated by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Equatorial Guinea government was also ordered to pay the state of Geneva 1.3 million Swiss Francs, the majority of which will cover the cost of the auction.

Who is Teodorin Nguema Obiang?

 Teodorin Obiang Nguema

Teodorin Nguema Obiang was named the country's vice president by his father

Teodorin is the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled the West African state for four decades. Rights groups have labelled his administration one of the world's most corrupt and repressive, accusing it of misusing the country's oil revenue while around 76% of the country's 1.2 million population live in poverty.

Despite this, the 49-year-old, who was named Equatorial Guinea's vice president by his father, leads a lavish lifestyle funded by alleged corruption. He often posts photographs showcasing his wealth on his Instagram account under the handle "teddynguema," where he has over 90,000 followers.

A history of corruption

His wealth and fame, however, have not offered protection from authorities seeking to clamp down on his corruption. In 2017, he was handed a three-year suspended sentence for corruption by the French government.

In addition, French authorities seized a mansion on the prestigious Avenue Foch in Paris and handed him a suspended fine of €30 million.

Last year Brazilian authorities confiscated more than $16 million worth of luxury watches engraved with Obiang's initials, as well as cash from a delegation accompanying Teodorin to Sao Paulo. 

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