France Seizes Paris Mansion

France Seizes Paris Mansion

August 3, 2012
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France has seized the Paris mansion allegedly belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s ruling family as part of a corruption probe into President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s son.

France has seized the Paris mansion allegedly belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s ruling family as part of a corruption probe into President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s son.

The mansion, reportedly worth between 100 and 150 million euros, was seized on July 19 in the investigation into Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, commonly known as Teodorín, for whom France issued an international arrest warrant on July 10.

According to an AFP report, Teodorín's lawyer has argued that the mansion "is a state building for diplomatic use" and that "courts have no right whatsoever to seize it". 

In February, French authorities seized truckloads worth of valuable artwork and antiques from the Paris mansion, including a Louis XIV desk with an estimated value of 1.5 million Euros, and a clock worth an estimated 3 million euros.  Last September, French authorities also seized 11 luxury cars belonging to the family of President Obiang.

Separately, President Obiang’s son faces a corruption investigation in the United States, in which the United States Department of Justice has moved to confiscate more than $70 million of Teodorín’s luxury assets, including a $30 million Malibu mansion, $38.5 million Gulfstream Jet, and nearly $3 million in Michael Jackson memorabilia.

An amended complaint filed by the Justice Department on June 11, 2012 alleges that Teodorín spent more than $300 million on high-end purchases between 2000 and 2011, despite earning less than $100,000 from his official government salary, and that he used extortion and other illicit schemes to enrich himself while Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
Lawyers for Teodorín Obiang have argued that these prosecutions infringe on international law and Teodorín's diplomatic immunity, given his position as second vice-president of Equatorial Guinea and the country’s appointed deputy permanent delegate to UNESCO. 

Teodorín’s defense has also claimed that he cannot be charged with abuse of public resources because no such crime exists under Equatoguinean law. That claim is disputed by both the U.S. Justice Department and independent lawyers in Equatorial Guinea, who cite an Equatoguinean law that makes it a crime for civil servants to abuse public resources. Teodorín’s defense has alleged that Teodorín’s then-post as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry does not qualify him as a “civil servant”.

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