obiang plane

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny coastal country in West Africa, with a population of only half a million. It is one of the biggest producers of oil in Africa and has a higher GDP per capita than Poland. Read more

Yet three-quarters of Equato-guineans live below the poverty line. The country is ruled by a small, repressive elite centred around President Teodoro Obiang. President Obiang uses the country’s oil wealth to enrich himself and his family, while violently suppressing opposition and ignoring the suffering of his people.

His regime has had help from the international financial system. As early as 2003 Global Witness helped to expose how Obiang and his associates had stashed millions of dollars in accounts at the prestigious Riggs bank in Washington, DC. Riggs was subsequently investigated by a Senate committee investigation for banking for corrupt dictators including Obiang and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, and the bank was sold off at a huge discount.

Our later investigations have exposed how the President’s son and government minister, Teodorin Obiang, has spent millions of dollars sustaining a playboy lifestyle in Europe and the U.S. while earning a government salary of only a few thousand dollars a month.

Teodorin used American lawyers and anonymously owned shell companies in the United States to disguise his identity and deposit over $100 million into American banks. He used the money to buy a $30 million Malibu mansion, a $38 million private jet, and a crystal-studded glove worn by Michael Jackson. In 2011, Global Witness uncovered Teodorin’s plans to build a $380 million yacht, which would have cost approximately three times his country’s health and education budgets combined.

The case of Equatorial Guinea highlights the complicity of western financial institutions in propping up corrupt regimes. Global Witness is campaigning for legislation that requires companies to reveal their true ‘beneficial’ owners; the UK and the EU have signed up, and we’re now pushing for the U.S. to follow suit. Such measures would make it much harder for corrupt dictators like Obiang to move their illicit gains overseas and deprive needy citizens of the benefits of their resource wealth.