Equatorial Guinea’s vice-president is set to stand trial in France for money laundering

Obiang’s seized cars.
Obiang’s seized cars.
Image: EPA/Laurent Gillieron
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Teodorin Obiang Nguema, son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, is set to be tried in France for money laundering and corruption. Obiang, who is also the country’s vice-president, is accused of looting state funds and spending lavishly acquiring luxury cars and mansions across Europe.

While the trial proceedings will be held in France, other European countries have clamped down on Obiang’s questionable spending. Last November, 11 of Obiang’s luxury cars, including a $2.8 million Koenigegg One, and a $2 million Bugatti Veyron, were seized in Switzerland while Dutch authorities seized Ebony Shine, a $120 million 76-meter (250 ft) luxury yacht, said to belong to Obiang.

The US has also cracked down Obiang’s assets. As part of a settlement, Obiang forfeited more than $30 million worth of assets, including a Malibu mansion and other luxury cars, “purchased with corruption proceeds.”

For his part, Obiang  is expected to plead not guilty as his lawyers says he “earned the money legally in his country.” His attorneys have also tried to delay the trial claiming they have not had enough time to prepare. French courts have granted that request, postponing the trial till June.

Should the trial go ahead as scheduled, Obiang is not expected to attend or serve a sentence if convicted. However,  a conviction of the vice-president will reinforce the notion in Equatorial Guinea that the country’s ruling family are plundering state resources for personal gain. Obiang’s father is Africa’s longest serving president, in power for 37 years.

Despite being oil-rich with one of Africa’s highest rates of GDP per capita, 2013 estimates pegged the country’s poverty rate at 60%. Equatorial Guinea’s wealth earnings and poverty rate paradox means the country has the world’s largest gap between per capita wealth and human development score.