CARJACKING

Swiss officials just seized 11 of the world’s most expensive cars from this African president’s son

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

Geneva

Eleven of the world’s rarest—and most expensive—cars owned by Teodorin Obiang Nguema, son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, were seized by Swiss authorities this week, adding to the family’s international legal battles over alleged misappropriation of public funds.

The cars, which included a Swedish-made Koenigegg One, one of only seven ever produced for $2.8 million, and a $2 million Bugatti Veyron, were allegedly moved to a freight area at the Geneva Airport soon after the investigation was launched.

Francois Pilet, a reporter for the weekly Hebdo, who has long covered the Obiangs, suspects the cars were being prepared to be moved abroad, before authorities received a tipoff.

“The honeymoon is over between Geneva and the Obiangs,” Pilet told Quartz.

Teodorin, who is also vice president of his country, is the son of president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Africa’s longest serving president. After elections this April, the president added another seven years to a 36-year-rule of the former Spanish colony.

Africa’s third largest oil producer had a GDP of $15.53 billion in 2014, with a population of just over 1.2 million in last year’s census, meaning it has one of Africa’s highest GDP per capita. Yet, it’s ranked 138 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index in 2015.

Over the past two years, Transparency International failed to include Equatorial Guinea on its Corruption Perception Index, as it was deemed “too opaque to rank”. President Obiang has described his regime’s management of the country’s vast oil revenues as a “state secret”.

Pilet, through a Twitter bot called GVA Dictator Alert, has reported numerous trips by Obiang-owned planes between Jan. 2015 and June 2016, including a Dassault 900 jet owned by the 47-year-old which touched down six times in Geneva, spending 69 days at the airport, while another Equato-Guinean jet made nine trips there staying a total of 83 days on the tarmac.

The Swiss investigation comes five years after an investigation was launched in France into Teodorin Obiang. He is accused of having procured ill-gotten wealth and is scheduled to stand trial in Paris in January 2017. In 2011, French police sequestered luxury cars from Obiang’s $180 million residence in Paris, as well as furniture and art, including painting by Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir, worth $50 million.

The case has dragged on for years while the presidential son, who is also the country’s vice-president, invoked diplomatic immunity.

In 2014, the US Department of Justice accused Teodorin Obiang of laundering funds from corruption and seized his $30 million mansion in Malibu, a Gulfstream jet and 28 collector’s cars.

Henri Della Casa, a spokesman for the Geneva justice department confirmed that the measures are being taken in a case involving money laundering that “various acts of investigation have been carried out”.

“The case with Equatorial Guinea is such a caricature,” Pilet commented. “The criminal aspect is so obvious that they don’t have much chance to win.”

Sign up for the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief — the most important and interesting news from across the continent, in your inbox.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search