Equatorial Guinea President's son loses French mansion and sports cars after Paris verdict, but walks free

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue will not have to serve any jail time, but judges decided to confiscate assets seized during the investigation worth tens of millions of euros.
Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue will not have to serve any jail time, but judges decided to confiscate assets seized during the investigation worth tens of millions of euros.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - The son of Equatorial Guinea's president was found guilty by the Paris criminal court of using ill-gotten gains to buy millions of euros worth of assets ranging from real estate to a Bugatti Veyron.

While Mr Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is his country's vice-president, will not have to serve any jail time, judges decided to confiscate assets seized during the investigation worth tens of millions of euros. He was given a three-year suspended jail sentence and a suspended fine of  €30 million  (S$47.73 million).

Mr Nguema Obiang - the 47-year-old son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Africa's longest-serving leader - has also been under investigation by Swiss and American authorities.

He was accused in the US of using his government position to collect corrupt money, enabling him to buy a US$30 million mansion in Malibu, California, a Gulfstream jet, Michael Jackson memorabilia and a Ferrari.

"We aren't passing judgment on events that took place in Equatorial Guinea. The money laundering took place in France," said Judge Benedicte de Perthuis, adding that the total amounts laundered are evaluated at €150 million. "Given its transnational character, money laundering calls upon a worldwide clampdown."

In France, investigators say Mr Nguema Obiang spent tens of millions to acquire and maintain a mansion on Avenue Foch near the Champs-Elysees in Paris on a US$80,000-a-year position as a government minister.

He also bought jewellery worth €10 million and a fleet of cars worth about €6 million, according to the indictment. Nr Nguema Obiang spent €18 million at an auction in February 2009 that included the private art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Mr Pierre Berge.

Transparency International lodged a complaint in 2008 with a French investigative judge, requesting the start of a criminal probe into suspicions of ill-gotten gains and asking for reparation.

French law allows a person or organisation to become a plaintiff if they can show personal harm from the actions of the accused.

While Mr Nguema Obiang, who was not present for Friday's verdict, already reached a settlement with the US Justice Department in 2014, Swiss prosecutors said last year that their investigation is still at a preliminary stage.

Mr Nguema Obiang's lawyers say he gained diplomatic immunity in 2012, just as French authorities issued an international arrest warrant for him, when he became Equatorial Guinea's vice-president.