(Time) Teodorin Obiang: The Dictator’s Son with a Malibu Mansion and a Warrant for His Arrest
(Time) Teodorin Obiang: The Dictator’s Son with a Malibu Mansion and a Warrant for His ArrestVivienne Walt July 16, 2012
Wanted on money-laundering charges in France, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of the 70-year-old President of Equatorial Guinea, is the poster child of Africa's kleptocratic political elites. On July 13, French authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
Last Friday, just as the workweek in France was winding down in readiness for Bastille Day celebrations, French authorities quietly issued an arrest warrant for a man whose lavish spending has for years raised eyebrows not only in Paris but also thousands of kilometers away — in California. Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of the President of one of Africa’s smallest countries, Equatorial Guinea, had failed to appear at a French money-laundering investigation in order to answer questions about how he managed to spend millions of dollars despite earning a modest government salary.
For the 41-year-old potentate, the French warrant was just the latest episode in what has been a wild ride, one that includes a movie-star life in Malibu, allegedly fueled by proceeds from companies — mostly American — operating in his tiny oil-rich country. Now that bucolic lifestyle is under threat, in part, according to some activists, because Western tolerance for foreign dictators’ excesses has lately worn thin — and that’s in turn thanks, some believe, to the Arab Spring. “It doesn’t hurt that in the public perception, the catalyst for the Arab Spring was those leaders’ corruption,” says Joseph Kraus, development director of EG Justice, an NGO in Washington working on human rights in Equatorial Guinea. “Corruption is a difficult thing to prove, especially in a country which is so closed, but we hope the arrest warrant will be a signal for other countries to follow.”