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‘Shameless’ kleptocrat Teddy Obiang forfeits $30 million in DOJ settlement

The Department of Justice said Friday it reached a settlement of its civil forfeiture cases against assets in the United States owned by the Second Vice President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro (Teddy) Nguema Obiang Mangue that he purchased with the proceeds of corruption.    

The settlement was signed and lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

“Through relentless embezzlement and extortion, Vice President Nguema Obiang shamelessly looted his government and shook down businesses in his country to support his lavish lifestyle, while many of his fellow citizens lived in extreme poverty,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said.

“After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States,” she said. 

The DOJ brought the action in October 2011 under the its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. The agency said when it filed the action that it was seeking to recover $70.8 million in real and personal property located in the United States.

Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, received an official government salary of less than $100,000, according to court documents.

But he used his position and influence as a government minister to amass more than $300 million worth of assets through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both Equatoguinean and U.S. law, the DOJ said.

He agreed with the DOJ to a combination of forfeiture and divestment.

Under the terms of the settlement, the DOJ said,

Nguema Obiang must sell a $30 million mansion located in Malibu, California, a Ferrari automobile and various items of Michael Jackson memorabilia purchased with the proceeds of corruption. Of those proceeds, $20 million will be given to a charitable organization to be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea. Another $10.3 million will be forfeited to the United States and will be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea to the extent permitted by law.

The settlement also requires Obiang to disclose and remove other assets he owns in the United States. 

He must also make a $1 million payment to the United States, representing the value of Michael Jackson memorabilia already removed from the U.S., for disbursement to the charitable organization, the DOJ said. 

If certain of Nguema Obiang’s other assets, including a Gulfstream Jet, are ever brought into the United States, they’re subject to seizure and forfeiture.

The DOJ filed the action against Obiang’s assets in the United States six months after journalist Ken Silverstein asked in Foreign Policy why Teddy had escaped U.S. sanctions.

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

A French 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.

The DOJ said Friday it “appreciates the extensive assistance provided by the Government of France in this investigation and prosecution.”

The DOJ’s October 10, 2014 release is here.


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

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  1. Great blog Richard ~ of all the points garnered was that the DOJ only prosecuted after being questioned about the lack of sanctions against this individual, and that of the $300 million amassed through shake downs and corruption in a country fraught with poverty, a token $30 million was demanded. No actual punitive effect and release back to those subject to continued abuse ~ that is what's shameless.

  2. It will be interesting to see which charity is selected for the donation of the proceeds, who is on the board of that charity, and how the funds are ultimately used. I hope the DOJ or some other entity is charged with tracking what happens next.

    Also, I wonder what the issue is regarding the "[]other $10.3 million [that] will be forfeited to the United States and will be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea to the extent permitted by law." Does anyone know what law would preclude forfeited assets from being used to benefit those from whom the assets were looted?

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