Iglesias Letter

Iglesias Letter

October 8, 2012
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EG Justice and Human Rights Watch have called on Julio Iglesias to examine how his concert in Equatorial Guinea is being financed, given concerns over government corruption. 

Click here to view the full letter.

September 26, 2012
Mr. Julio Iglesias
Starry Night Enterprises
1885 NE 149th St Ste G
North Miami FL 33181

Re: “1 World Tour” Concert in Sipopo, Equatorial Guinea

Dear Mr. Iglesias,

We are writing concerning information that Teodoro (“Teodorin”) Nguema Obiang Mangue is taking a prominent role as the local organizer and promoter of your “1 World Tour” concert announced for October 8, 2012, at the Sipopo conference center outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Beyond being a music producer and promoter, Mr. Nguema is a high-level representative of the government of Equatorial Guinea and the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for over 33 years. The Equatorial Guinean government has a very poor human rights record; as the United States State Department country report, covering 2011, notes “[m]ajor human rights abuses reported during the year included a disregard for the rule of law and due process, denial of basic political rights including freedom of speech and press, and widespread official corruption.” It adds that “the president and members of his inner circle continued to amass personal fortunes from the revenues associated with oil exports.”

In that light, we wish to especially draw your attention to the fact that Mr. Nguema is currently the subject of multiple foreign investigations into alleged grand-scale corruption. We are therefore concerned that he or others in government may manipulate the event and the resulting association with you to burnish his and the government’s image and urge that any funding for the concert provided by Mr. Nguema or his company is scrutinized to ensure that the funding has not been inappropriately acquired. We hope you can take steps to achieve this and urge you to:

  • Publicly clarify what role, if any, Mr. Nguema has in the concert;
  • Publicly clarify what steps you have taken or will take to ensure that the event and your fees are not underwritten in whole or in part with funds that may have been obtained illicitly; and
  • In view of the controversy surrounding him and the government he represents at a senior level, issue a public statement distancing yourself from any publicity Mr. Nguema is engaged in regarding his apparent involvement in the concert.

We have noted that your upcoming performance in Equatorial Guinea was first announced by Mr. Nguema. His Facebook page features an image of a concert poster indicating that the event is being organized by “TNO Production Guinea Equatorial,” a company owned by him. Billboards on display in Malabo advertising the concert also feature the name of his production company. Moreover, based on past patterns, we expect that Mr. Nguema will seek to benefit from the prestige and attention of his apparent association with you in other ways, possibly by taking the stage at the concert, having his photo taken with you, and being lauded in the state media for his proclaimed role in bringing you to the country for what is widely expected to be a popular concert—all as means to burnish his tarnished reputation.

Mr. Nguema has served as Equatorial Guinea’s second vice president since May 2012 and, previously, as its minister of forestry and agriculture for over a decade. He represents a highly repressive government. Beyond his prominent official posts, Mr. Nguema is a political figure in his own right and is widely considered to be a potential successor to his father. We have enclosed information about the record of human rights abuses by the government of Equatorial Guinea, including some that implicate Mr. Nguema himself. Mr. Nguema is also the subject of an international arrest warrant against him on charges of money-laundering. In addition, he has drawn negative attention over alleged abuses against his staff, including in one case pursuing a former employee in the courts and eventually securing a conviction on theft charges—for which no evidence was presented—in retaliation for perceived disloyalty.

We are not calling on you to cancel your performance in Malabo but hope that you will inform yourself about the controversies surrounding Mr. Nguema as well as concerns about President Obiang’s governance record. Beyond the luxury conference hall that will stage the concert are harsh repression and widespread poverty that contrasts sharply with Equatorial Guinea’s enormous natural resource wealth and the ostentatious lifestyle of Mr. Nguema in particular. For these reasons, it will be useful for you to issue a public statement addressing his role and the financial arrangements for the concert as well as distancing yourself from publicity by Mr. Nguema in connection with your concert.

You may recall that similar concerns arose in connection with your participation in a 2008 event in Uzbekistan organized by the daughter of that country’s repressive ruler, Ms. Gulnara Karimova, who is likewise a longtime senior government official. The video of your duet with Ms. Karimova generated negative media attention and pressure for you to address the controversy publicly. A similar situation appears likely with Mr. Nguema.

We look forward to your response. We also would be happy to meet with you or your representatives to discuss this issue further. We intend to make this letter public ahead of the scheduled date of the concert and would welcome the opportunity to include your response. To that end, we would kindly ask that you reply by October 3.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Arvind Ganesan
Director, Business and Human Rights
Human Rights Watch

Tutu Alicante
Executive Director
EG Justice

Enclosure: Briefing on Human Rights and Corruption in Equatorial Guinea (click here to view the full letter)

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