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New documents detail alleged grand corruption in Equatorial Guinea

12th June 2012

A new US Department of Justice court filing has made substantial allegations of corruption against Teodorin Obiang, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea. The document is part of a wider US effort to recover assets – including a $30 million mansion in Malibu and a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia – that it alleges are the proceeds of corruption. The court has not yet ruled on these allegations, which Teodorin denies.

“This filing provides significantly more detail on allegations of corruption against Teodorin Obiang. It further validates concerns that Global Witness has raised over the years about Teodorin’s source of funds that sustain his luxury lifestyle,” said Robert Palmer, a campaigner with Global Witness.

The amended complaint was filed yesterday in response to a request from the judge hearing the case to provide more evidence of Teodorin’s corruption, who was minister of forestry and agriculture at the time of the allegations. The new allegations include:

  • Teodorin required timber companies in Equatorial Guinea to pay him personally approximately 10 percent of the value of wood harvested for export (p.21).
  • Since at least as early as 2005, Teodorin has maintained public funds and revenues collected by the Forestry Ministry in an account at a private commercial bank in Equatorial Guinea that he had the exclusive authority and control over (pp.35-36).
  • He received tens of millions of dollars in payments from fraudulently inflated construction contracts in Equatorial Guinea (p.31). 

According to the Department of Justice, Teodorin spent millions of dollars on sustaining a luxury lifestyle. This new filing provides more detail including:

  • €7.34 million of renovations to his Paris home in 2006.
  • A $15 million house in Sao Paulo bought in 2008.
  • €3.2 million on jewellery, including a diamond-studded Piaget watch for €980,720 in 2011.

The filing also provides more information on how Teodorin was able to move his assets into the United States using American banks and lawyers. In a number of cases Teodorin used shell companies to hide his identity and ownership of various assets, including his $30 million mansion. 

Global Witness is calling for greater transparency over the ownership of companies. The bipartisan Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (S. 1483) would require states to collect information on the ultimate, or beneficial, owner of US companies. This would make it much harder for corrupt politicians to hide their identities behind anonymous American companies to stash their ill-gotten gains in US banks.

Teodorin was recently promoted to deputy Prime Minister and is currently subject to an international arrest warrant issued by the French authorities in relation to a separate asset recovery action.

/Ends

Read the filing

Contact:

London: Robert Palmer on +44 (0)20 7492 5860, rpalmer@globalwitness.org. 

Washington, DC: Stefanie Ostfeld on +1 202 621 6674, sostfeld@globalwitness.org.

Notes to editors:

  • In 2009, Global Witness’s report The Secret Life of a Shopaholic revealed how Teodorin had been able to transfer $75 million into the US in the space of two years, despite earning a modest salary as a government official.
  • In 2011, Global Witness exposed Teodorin’s plans for a yacht, which if built would have cost $380 million, three times the health and education budget of Equatorial Guinea.