Monday, January 2, 2017

Ill-gotten gains : the incredible fortune of the son of the dictator of guinea on trial in Paris – The Obs

For a decade, the son of an african head of State has been able to lead the life in a castle in Paris. He lived in a palace 101 rooms at avenue Foch, where the water flowed through faucets in gold. Dévalisait the luxury shops of the avenue Montaigne. Commanded the best Romanée-Conti. And hidden in its garage, one of the most amazing collections of luxury cars.

This man is called Teodorin Obiang, 47 years old. He is the eldest of the children of the current president of equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, in power since 1979 (he was re-elected in April with 93.7 per cent of the votes). This man is being tried from Monday, January 2, by the correctional court of Paris for “laundering of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and abuse of trust”. Absent (today, he resides in the capital, Malabo, Guinea), the accused is to be represented by his French lawyer, master of Emmanuel Marsigny.

This trial has a very high symbolic importance. It is the first outcome of the proceedings concerning the “ill-gotten gains”, which were launched there is a battery ten years by the associations, Sherpa and Transparency International. Little world, then, believed in any chance of success. In asking the French court to rule on the legality of the property acquired in France by kinglets africans and their families, it is all the Françafrique that it was shaken, this diplomacy of post-colonialism, preferring to close his eyes on the fortunes diverted into the single objective is to maintain its influence in Africa. William Bourdon, president of Sherpa and lawyer of Transparency International, said :

“there’s an ocean of skepticism in front of us. The activism of the floor, under the presidency of Sarkozy, has helped to paralyse the proceedings until 2010. So, yes, the opening of this trial today is for us a satisfaction.”

“Alcohol, hooker, coke,”

The reading of the ordinance for reference of Teodorin Obiang stems, in part, the scenario of a bad film. We discover the life hollow and désœuvrée of a man wealthy. A few days in Paris, a few weeks in Malibu (California), sometimes in Brazil, as many countries, where it has beautiful properties (such as its real estate is estimated at 100 million euros). When he could still get out of his country, Teodorin Obiang, today covered by a warrant of arrest, did not travel without his cases swollen to several million dollars in cash.

“Alcohol, hooker, coke” : that’s how a former butler has summarized the life of Obiang Junior. “The money spent, he returned to Equatorial Guinea, approximately three times per year to retrieve two other suitcases,” has also told this witness.

Teodorin Obliang has long been minister of Agriculture and Forests of his country, the poorest in Africa despite its vast natural resources. A job that reported an income of 80 000 dollars annual. But the wealth brought to light by investigators, is without common measure with these official revenue.

Works of art, nightclub, steam room

When they entered his home in paris, avenue Foch, the police have fallen on an unimaginable cave of Ali Baba. This particular hotel of over 4,000 square meters on five floors was mostly of the castle. Acquired for € 25 million in the mid-2000s, it had then been embellished, over the work carried out by prestigious architects (for an amount of € 11 million), a nightclub, a bar, a games room, a cinema room, a hammam and a gym. The building itself served as the backdrop to a triplex, of which the only master room was 100 square meters. The giant screen of the Panasonic brand had been bought for € 100,000.

police seize the assets of Teodorin Obiang, avenue Foch, on February 14, 2012. (AFP PHOTO ERIC FEFERBERG ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP)

the master of The house has, in fact, spent without counting to decorate richly its parisian cocoon into works of art, jewellery and antique furniture. It is thus that on the occasion of the auction of the historic art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Teodorin Obiang has arrogated to itself of paintings and sculptures to 18.3 million euros. Opening the cupboards, the investigators have found pieces of china and fine cutlery of gold and silver from Christofle.

The closets teemed with outfits purchased from the best tailors, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Armani, Burberry, Versace. When he was in Paris, Teodorin Obiang was also going to do tours, shopping in the place Vendôme. He has spent hundreds of thousands of euros in watches, jewelry and pins among the greatest jewellers : Cartier, Piaget and Chaumet, among others. The investigators were, however, far from being able to imagine what they are going to discover in the garage. Teodorin Obiang kept a collection of 18 vehicles of very large luxury whose value has been estimated at 7.4 million euros. Four Bentleys, two Rolls royce Phantom, two Ferrari’s, three Porsche’s, two Bugatti, a Maserati.

The amazing thing is that Teodorin Obiang has continued its shopping sumptuous, as if nothing had happened after the filing of a complaint by Sherpa and Transparency International and the beginning of the statement. Proof of his belief in its impunity is absolute. The police have not had a lot of difficulties to trace the origin of the funds used by the man who is going to be held in Paris. According to the order for reference before the tribunal, the expenses were part of the corruption. As Forest minister, Teodorin Obiang tapped for its own account the fees paid by the operating companies forest. They were used for his personal expenses. The other part of this expenditure was covered directly by the public Treasury of guinea.

dirty tricks

The six years of instruction have also been the scene of diplomatic manoeuvring and dirty tricks legal of any kind. Twice, Teodorin Obiang has been raised in the hierarchy of the government. Of a minister, he was first named vice second vice-president (in 2012) and then vice-president (in 2016), in charge of security and defence. The lawyers appointed to defend the son of the dictator has instituted procedures to demonstrate that it was this fact covered by immunity. The episode’s most captivating has without doubt been the installation, just before the search of the home of the avenue Foch by the police forces in 2011, two plaques at the entrance, claiming that the building was a matter of diplomatic representation. In which case it would have also been covered by the immunity. But the process has not convinced the judges.

In November 2015, we had collected the confidences of the ambassador of Guinea in France, Miguel Mifumu. He explained :

“The vice-president is a very big business in the wood industry and forestry. It is through his income that he has purchased the goods. He loves sports cars. But the building of the avenue Foch belongs to the guinean government, which he has redeemed. This whole affair has been fabricated by the enemies of our country. We will go up in the international Court of justice if necessary.”

But this procedure was not successful. No more than that the employment of Jean-Pierre Mignard, a friend of president François Hollande, as “legal adviser” by the guinean government. In December 2015, the Court of appeal considered the statement definitively admissible.

This trial could be followed by others. Several instructions are in progress, which are intended to be current or former african presidents or their families : Denis Sassou Nguesso, currently president of the Congo, the descendants of Omar Bongo in Gabon, François Bozizé, former president of the central African republic, Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of the current leader of Syria. Justice French has also helped in the identification of the heritage of the families Ben Ali (Tunisia) and Mubarak (Egypt), of which the instruction should be continued in their respective countries.

The outcome of the trial, if Teodorin Obiang was to be sentenced, will however the complicated issue of the restitution of the property seized.

“There is no question of return to the offender the proceeds of their crimes. As the families of the accused are in power, it may not return the seized property,” points out William Bourdon, the lawyer of the civil party, Transparency international.

“however, There are several solutions. Their in receivership by the French Treasury, pending a policy change. Or a payment to local NGOS under international supervision, as this has already been achieved in Kazakhstan.”

The trial of Teodorin Obiang should stand up on 12 January at the 32nd chamber of the tribunal correctional of Paris.

Caroline Michel


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