AGENCIES | Paris – France’s highest appeals court upheld the embezzlement guilty verdict against Teodorin Obiang, the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, which could result in the return of millions of euros in assets to the country.
Obiang, also the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, was handed a three-year suspended sentence and a 30 million euro fine in 2020. Luxury residences, and sportscars are just some of the items seized in France.
The vice president of the Gulf of Guinea country has always denied any wrongdoing, stressing that French courts had no right to rule on his assets, but Court de Cassation rejected this argument.
“With this decision … France is no longer a haven for money embezzled by senior foreign leaders and their entourage: the assets acquired in France with dirty money will be confiscated and their owners prosecuted and condemned,” Patrick Lefas, of Transparency International France, which was party to the case, said in a statement.
No more appeals can be made in this case.
Under a new French law, the assets will be put on sale and stipulate that the money, instead of going to the French state’s coffers, should go back to Equatorial Guinea.
One of the big-ticket items that were seized is a 101-room mansion in the heart of Paris on Avenue Foch. Obiang’s €107m mansion near the Champs-Élysées boasts a hammam, disco, gym, hair-dressing studio, gold-plated taps and hundreds of artworks.
The fallout from the trial
On Monday, the British government added Teodorin to a sanctions list. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Teodoro Obiang had participated in “corrupt contracting arrangements and soliciting bribes, to fund a lavish lifestyle inconsistent with his official salary as a government minister.”
Human rights groups such as EG Justice is calling for other governments, such as the US and European Union, to levy sanctions against the vice president.
In a tit-for-tat move, Equatorial Guinea announced it is closing its embassy in London after Teodorin was put on the sanctions list.
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Obiang’s father, President Teodoro Obiang has ruled the country since taking power in a bloody coup in 1979, 11 years after gaining independence from Spain.
The country is sitting on a wealth of oil reserves, but the World Bank estimates that 76 percent of the population live in poverty.