FEDS END ‘CORRUPTION-FUELED SPENDING SPREE’ BY WEST AFRICAN LEADER’S SON

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Oct. 13 (GIN) – In its pursuit of so-called foreign kleptocrats who drain billions of dollars a year from impoverished countries for lives of luxury abroad, the U.S. Dept of Justice this week enjoyed one small victory in court.

Teodorin Nguema Obiang, second vice president of Equatorial Guinea and son of the President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, finally lost his bid to keep all of his pricey possessions bought, according to the charges, with stolen money. A Los Angeles district court judge ordered the seizure of $35 million of assets located in the U.S. – less than half of what the government sought.

The assets include a cliff-top Malibu mansion with ocean view, a Ferrari, six life-size Michael Jackson statues and other belongings said to be purchased with profits from corrupt business deals in the oil rich West African nation.

"Through relentless embezzlement and extortion, Vice President Nguema Obiang shamelessly looted his government and shook down businesses in his country to support his lavish lifestyle, while many of his fellow citizens lived in extreme poverty," Assistant Atty. Gen. Leslie Caldwell said. "After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States."

Nguema admitted no wrongdoing. He’ll be allowed to keep a Gulfstream jet and the white glove from Michael Jackson’s “Bad” world tour.

Nguema’s father has ruled the country for the past 30 years, since ousting his uncle in a military coup. Despite huge profits from oil and gas, the World Bank estimates more than three quarters of the population are impoverished.

Nothing in the settlement will bar Teodorin from visiting the U.S. as he has diplomatic immunity.

Of the $30 million expected from the sale of the Malibu mansion, a third will go directly to the U.S. government and the rest to a charity to benefit the people of Equatorial Guinea.

On the Equatorial Guinea blog, Nguema wrote: “I agreed to settle this case despite the fact that the U.S. federal courts had consistently found that the Department of Justice lacked probable cause to seize my property, which was acquired with funds earned in accordance with the laws of my country and through business dealings inside and outside Equatorial Guinea.”

According to the latest report by Human Rights Watch, “corruption, poverty, and repression continue to plague Equatorial Guinea. Vast oil revenues fund lavish lifestyles for the small elite surrounding the president, while a large proportion of the population continues to live in poverty. Mismanagement of public funds and credible allegations of high-level corruption persist, including arbitrary detention, secret detention, and unfair trials.

Secretary John Kerry in a State Department press release, however, sounded a positive note marking with the country’s day of independence on Oct. 12.  He wrote: “As you gather with family and friends, I wish all the people of Equatorial Guinea peace and stability in the year to come.” w/pix of Teodorin Nguema Obiang

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