French court convicted Equatorial Guinea’s vice president of corruption on Friday and ordered that the confiscation of his Paris mansion and other assets worth about £100 million.
Teodorin Obiang, whose father has been president of the oil-rich west African country for 38 years, was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. It was the first of several expected trials arising from eight years of investigations into French assets held by the ruling families of Equatorial Guinea and two other African countries, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.
Human rights activists hailed the verdict as marking the end of a “culture of impunity”. French prosecutors launched “ill-gotten gains” inquiries after Transparency International and another campaign group, Sherpa, filed a lawsuit against the three countries’ presidents for allegedly embezzling public money to buy properties in France.
48 years old Obiang did not attend the three-week trial. He was found guilty of abuse of trust, money-laundering and embezzlement to acquire the mansion, a fleet of luxury cars including a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari, and works of art.
Before French authorities move to confiscate the nine-storey mansion, the International Court of Justice will have to confirm the order.The property on one of Paris’s most opulent avenues has a gym and a discothèque with a cinema screen. The defence had argued that it served as Equatorial Guinea’s diplomatic mission.
Obiang was also given a £26 million fine, suspended for three years.William Bourdon, a lawyer for Transparency International, described the verdict as “historic”.
Mr Bourdon said;“It is the beginning of the end for this rule of impunity and immunity that these kleptocrats imagined was eternal.”
Obiang’s lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, said the verdict was “political” and France was meddling in Equatorial Guinea’s internal affairs. He said his client was considering an appeal.