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Teddy Obiang on trial in Paris for embezzlement

The son of Equatorial Guinea’s president went on trial this week in France for embezzling more than $112 million from his country’s treasury.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, also known as Teddy Obiang, is the second vice president of Equatorial Guinea.

The French investigation started in 2010.

Transparency International France and Association Sherpa, two civil society organizations, accused Obiang of siphoning public money for personal purposes.

TI said it’s the first case in France brought by civil society groups.

Obiang is claiming immunity from prosecution based on his position as a vice president of Equatorial Guinea

Authorities in France already seized his $28 million Paris mansion, a dozen luxury cars, and his art collection, including a Degas and five works by Rodin, the OCCRP said.

Obiang earned less than $100,000 a year while serving as minister of agriculture and forestry in his father’s government.

The son allegedly spent $225 million abroad, two-thirds of that in France.

He was named a vice president after French authorities started investigating him, the OCCRP said.

In the United States, the DOJ filed forfeiture complaints under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative against Obiang’s real estate and personal property worth about $70 million.

The DOJ settled the forfeiture action in 2014.

Under the terms of the settlement, the DOJ said then,

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 U.S. settlement also required Obiang to disclose and remove other assets he owned in the United States.

If convicted in Paris, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to €50 million ($55 million).

The trial is expected to last until early July.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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