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Report: DOJ to settle $70 million forfeiture action with Teddy Obiang

The DOJ said last week it will settle a corruption-related civil forfeiture action involving more than $70 million in U.S. assets amassed by the son of Equatorial Guinea’s dictator.

The terms of any settlement with Teodoro Ngeuma Obiang, known as Teddy, aren’t final, 100Reporters said.

In late 2011, the DOJ filed civil forfeiture complaints against him to recover $70.8 million in real and personal property located in the United States.

The DOJ said Teddy allegedly “used his position and influence as a government minister for Equatorial Guinea to acquire criminal proceeds through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both Equatorial Guinea and U.S. law.”

The dictator’s son had allegedly amassed over $100 million through corruption, and laundered the proceeds in the U.S.

The DOJ said he used intermediaries and shell companies to acquire assets in the United States, including more than $1.8 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, a $38.5 million Gulfstream G-V jet, a $30 million house in Malibu, California, and a 2011 Ferrari worth $530,000.

It isn’t known whether Teddy will relinquish any assets to the DOJ in a settlement.

The DOJ started the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2011. The program is intended to seize ill-gotten gains stolen from the developing world.

Ken Hurwitz at the Open Society Justice Initiative in New York told 100Reporters that “it may be difficult for American officials to return any of the seized assets to the people of Equatorial Guinea.”

He said people there would be reluctant to anger the government by claiming money taken from the dictator’s son.

“Certainly from an Equatorial Guinean citizen’s point of view, from our point of view as a civil society organization, it’s frustrating. I would rather they didn’t settle,” Hurwitz said.

The DOJ filed it’s civil forfeiture action six months after journalist Ken Silverstein asked in Foreign Policy why Teddy, who amassed enormous wealth despite his official salary of about $5,000 per month, had escaped U.S. sanctions.

In 2012, French authorities seized Teddy’s Paris mansion as part of a money-laundering probe.

An arrest warrant accused him of laundering money from Equatorial Guinea for purchases in France of multi-million dollar properties and a fleet of luxury cars.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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