On trial for corruption: Teodoro Obiang, son of the president of Equatorial Guinea

On trial for corruption: Teodoro Obiang, son of the president of Equatorial Guinea

Updated 5 July 2017, 17:10 CET

Obiang Trial Update - 5 July 2017

On Monday 3 July, the second week of the trial against Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, began in Paris with the long-awaited testimonies from witnesses.

Daniel Lebègue, Honorary President of Transparency International France, kicked off the day by explaining to the court why Transparency International France started the process to bring Obiang to justice over 10 years ago: France should not allow the proceeds of corruption to be laundered within its borders. Stolen assets should be given back to their countries of origin.

Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice, an organisation that works to promote human rights, the rule of law, transparency, and civic participation in Equatorial Guinea, and Delfin Mocache, a political refugee and journalist in Spain, emphasised in their testimonies that Equatorial Guinea was “a country held hostage by the Obiang family”. They called the government “one of the most repressive and corrupt in the world”.

“This trial is a great moment in the fight against international grand corruption. The aim of Transparency International France is to make sure that France will not be a haven for ill-gotten money any longer and that the stolen assets will be returned to the citizens of Equatorial Guinea,” said Daniel Lebègue, Honorary President of Transparency International France.

Following the testimonies of witnesses, the latter part of the week saw the court consider more evidence relating to the corruption charge at the heart of the trial: the origins of the funds used by Obiang in France. On Wednesday 28 June, the court heard how Obiang’s personal bank accounts were allegedly credited with €66 million (US$75 million) by foreign companies based in Equatorial Guinea. Obiang’s lawyers denied the existence of such transactions.

The week ended with Obiang’s lawyers’ attempt, once again, to have the case dismissed, arguing that Obiang is not subject to French jurisdiction. The court is expected to respond on Wednesday, 5 July.

To get the latest updates of the trial follow @TI_France and @anticorruption on Twitter, check out TI France’s website or subscribe to TI France’s weekly newsletter updates.

Nowhere to hide: Obiang’s trial starts

Update, 26 June 2017: There were a few tense moments on 19 June, the opening day of the trial of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea. He is accused of corruption, in the first case of its kind brought by civil society in France.

Although he was not in the court, Obiang’s lawyers immediately tried to have the case dismissed.

First they said that it could not go ahead until there was a decision by the International Court of Justice. Then they claimed Obiang enjoyed diplomatic immunity, that there were procedural errors, and that a French court had no jurisdiction in the case. The judge, however, allowed proceedings to begin.

William Bourdon, the lawyer for the prosecution, described the vast wealth amassed by Obiang, who he likened to a “spoilt child” in his spending habits: the luxury apartment with 20 rooms, a Hamman bath, a discotheque, a cinema, and a hair salon. Testimony from former employees described the suitcases of cash that Obiang is suspected to have regularly brought into the flat, wardrobes full of designer clothes and the garage filled with prestige cars including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley and a Porsche.

In the second week there will be more witness accounts and the court will go into greater detail about the laws in Equatorial Guinea regarding conflict of interest and whether or not the wealth of Obiang was legally acquired or, as the prosecution will argue, stolen from the citizens of Equatorial Guinea, the true victims and the ones who should be the ultimate beneficiaries in case of restitution.

We are hopeful after this week’s hearings, despite the numerous attempts to delay or dismiss the trial. Teodorin Obiang will eventually have to answer the embezzlement and misuse of public funds charges he is facing.”

Laurène Bounaud Executive Director Transparency International France

In the first case in France brought by civil society in France Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, is on trial for corruption. It has taken a decade of arguments, a change to French law and a crowdfunding campaign to ensure the witnesses could travel to Paris. 

“This is a milestone in the history of the anti-corruption movement. Civil society has taken legal action to question a powerful figure and present the evidence of his corruption. The trial will show the levels of scandalous enrichment in a country where more than 70 per cent of the people live in extreme poverty. The poor citizens of Equatorial Guinea, a country rich in minerals, have a voice to help them win justice in the face of corruption”, said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

“This trial is a strong signal to corrupt leaders around the world that they are no longer immune from prosecution anywhere. The impunity they enjoyed is getting weaker every day.”

Marc-André Feffer Chair of TI France

In the next two weeks the court will hear arguments that started with a simple question: how was it possible for Teodoro Obiang to live such a luxurious lifestyle in France – own a multi-million dollar car collection and a fancy apartment – on the salary of a government official. As many as three quarters of the population of Equatorial Guinea live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

Transparency International France and Association Sherpa, two civil society organisations, started a legal battle to get an answer to the question. Obiang is accused of siphoning off more than €200 million ($225 million) of public money for personal purposes. He is claiming immunity from prosecution. The trial is expected to last until early July.

To get the latest updates of the trial follow @TI_France and @anticorruption on Twitter.

Image: Transparency International

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

No hay cambios en las percepciones pese a los avances en América

En los últimos años, América Latina y el Caribe lograron adelantos significativos en la lucha contra la corrupción. En muchos países de la región existen ahora leyes y mecanismos para contrarrestar este fenómeno, las investigaciones legales están avanzando y los movimientos ciudadanos anticorrupción han incrementado. Sin embargo, de acuerdo con el Índice de Percepción de la Corrupción (IPC) 2017, la región continúa con bajos puntajes.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world