Confiscated assets must now be returned to the people of Equatorial Guinea
Transparency International welcomes the decision of a court in Paris to convict Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the vice-president of Equatorial Guinea and son of the president, of embezzlement, and to confiscate all of his assets held in France.
The court also handed down a suspended three-year prison sentence and suspended fine of €30 million (US$35 million).
Obiang was convicted of embezzling more than €150 million (US$174 million) of public money. He used it to buy luxury goods, sports cars and a private mansion in Paris.
This result is a victory for civil society organisations in their effort to bring the corrupt to justice. The case came to trial because Transparency International France and Sherpa won the right to bring proceedings in France.
“The verdict today is a major milestone in the fight against impunity, but the fight is far from over,” said Marc-André Feffer, president of Transparency France.
“This is a great day for the people of Equatorial Guinea and it is a strong signal to corrupt leaders all over the world that there is no impunity for grand corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “There is an urgent need now for new laws to be put in place so that the property confiscated in cases like this is returned to its legitimate owners.”
The confiscated assets must now be returned to the people of Equatorial Guinea.
Transparency International is calling for measures to be put in place to ensure the assets are not allocated to the general state budget of France or returned to the Obiang government in Equatorial Guinea but that they go directly to citizens.
On Thursday, Transparency International France published a report advocating that assets confiscated in cases of grand corruption should benefit the population in the country of origin by financing development efforts, anti-corruption initiatives and work to strengthen the rule of law.
“Now that assets have been confiscated, there is an urgent need for legal reform to allow restitution to the victims,” said Laurène Bounaud, executive director of Transparency International France. “We will be presenting our proposal during roundtables and workshops to be held at the National Assembly in Paris on November 23rd, it would be unthinkable that the assets confiscated end up in the general budget of France.”
Under Article 57.3.c of the UN Convention against Corruption, to which France is a party, laws should be put in place to return stolen assets to their rightful owners. France does not yet have these laws.
The case against Obiang was initiated by Transparency International France and Sherpa, a French civil society organisation, in 2008. Getting here has taken almost a decade of arguments, a change to French law and a crowdfunding campaign to ensure the witnesses could travel to Paris to testify.
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