The trial of Teodorin Nguema Obiang (47), the son of Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbassogo, kicked off in the French capital Paris on Monday.
Obiang is accused of money laundering, misappropriation of public funds, breach of trust and state corruption. French prosecutors allege that Obiang stole nearly 110 million euros of public funds between 2004 and 2011 when he was agriculture minister to finance his luxury lifestyle.
His official salary as agriculture minister was only 76 000 euros per year, reports said.
But his ‘ill-gotten’ assets include 15 luxury cars including Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Maserati and Ferraris, an upmarket six-floor mansion made up of two large building blocks in the 16th Arrondissement (a posh suburb in Paris) worth 107 million euros, expensive jewellery, a collection of rare pieces of art, and many more.
His other Paris estate, valued at 25 million euros, includes a gymnasium, a steam room and a discotheque.
They have all been seized by the court.
He is also said to own luxury properties and shares in South Africa. In 2014, a US court seized his Malibu (Miami) mansion, a Ferrari and Michael Jackson memorabilia collectively worth more than US$30million.
Switzerland authorities are also said to be investigating Obiang, and in November, they seized his 11 luxury cars. The investigation into his illicit fortune was spurred up by non-governmental organisations Sherpa and Survie, which worked tirelessly for many years to bring his case to court.
Obiang was not in court on Monday, but was represented by his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny who pleaded with the presiding judge to postpone the case to help him prepare for the defence of his client. The court will make a decision on January 4.
In July 2012 French judges Roger Le Loire and René Grouman issued an international warrant of arrest for Obiang.
Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third-largest oil producer, but the majority of its people are living in extreme poverty without jobs, electricity, safe drinking water adequate sanitation and clinics.
Foreign journalists are barred from entering the country. Illegal arrests and detention, torture of opposition politicians, activists and journalists, and lack of freedom of expression are rife in Equatorial Guinea, human rights groups said.
Reports from Paris said that the presidential families of Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville – two of Africa’s oil producers – are next in the line of fire. Both families are said to own more than 200 ‘fat’ bank accounts and 100 luxury properties in Europe, US, UK, Switzerland and South Africa.
Photo: Some of the luxury cars owned by Teodoro Obiang being impounded by French Police. Credit: Le Parisien