Suit DismissedEG Justice April 25, 2013
A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit, but the Department of Justice may still proceed in the forfeiture case against Teodorin’s Gulfstream jet.
On April 19, 2013, a federal judge dismissed the Department of Justice civil forfeiture action against Teodorin’s $38.5 million Gulfstream jet, ruling that in its complaint the D.O.J. did not link the jet to specific illegal acts, thus failing to meet its burden of proof. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in October 2011, is an effort to seize assets the government believes were obtained from the proceeds of Teodorin’s illegal activities. However, this new development does not signify the end of the lawsuit (despite Teodorin’s statements that imply otherwise), as the suit was dismissed “without prejudice” and granted the government “leave to amend,” meaning prosecutors may file an amended complaint.
The Opinion, signed by Judge Contreras and issued in response to Teodorin’s Motion to Dismiss filed in January 2012, clarifies some important points. First, the Judge rejected Teodorin’s argument that the District Court lacked jurisdiction, noting that although the jet is located outside the United States, the Court does indeed have jurisdiction to issue a forfeiture order should it choose to do so. Second, the Opinion rejects Teodorin’s argument that the District Court should decline to hear the case because doing so would require it to pass judgment on Equatorial Guinea’s application of its own laws. Judge Contreras recognized there has not been any judicial proceeding in Equatorial Guinea to which the court should defer – a detail Teodorin asserted in his Motion to Dismiss by claiming he has not been investigated or prosecuted for any wrongdoing.
The crux of Judge Contreras’ reasoning lies with the insufficiency of the information required to meet the burden of proof; according to the Opinion, the D.O.J. did not provide enough details in the complaint to make its case. The Opinion cites as an example the complaint’s allegation that “members of the Inner Circle, such as Teodorin, demand[ed] payments from companies doing business in E.G., in exchange for the performance of official acts,” but important information is missing, such as the names of affected companies, information about when the scheme occurred, or the names of specific individuals who were involved in the scheme. Details about Teodorin’s income from the companies he owns are also missing; consequently, the judge decided that allegations that Teodorin is living beyond his means—without more—are not enough to prove criminal activity.
The Opinion notes the “disconcerting pattern of corruption in Equatorial Guinea,” and grants leave for the D.O.J. to amend the complaint, as it did in the forfeiture proceedings in the District Court in California against Teodorin’s Malibu estate and Michael Jackson memorabilia.
Click here to download a copy of the full Opinion: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/62621271/District%20Court%20Opinion.pdf