All the pres­i­dent’s play­boys

Mail & Guardian - - Africa - Si­mon Al­li­son

South Africa was shocked by the lav­ish life­styles of Robert Mu­gabe’s two sons when de­tails be­gan to emerge ear­lier this year: the flashy apart­ment in Sand­ton, Africa’s rich­est sub­urb; the de­signer threads; the end­less stream of topend cham­pagne. Even as Zim­babwe starved, its first fam­ily par­tied.

But they weren’t par­ty­ing hard enough — at least not by the stan­dards of an­other pres­i­den­tial play­boy.

Teodorin Obiang is the son and heir to the pres­i­dent of Equa­to­rial Guinea — Africa’s long­est-serv­ing pres­i­dent (38 years and count­ing). He is also the coun­try’s vice-pres­i­dent, wait­ing to in­herit the throne from his age­ing fa­ther.

While he waits, the 48-year-old Obiang Jr has been liv­ing a life of lux­ury, spend­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars on fast cars, fancy houses and all the other ac­cou­trements of the ul­tra­rich.

He owns a 76m lux­ury yacht, the Ebony Shine, which was im­pounded by Dutch au­thor­i­ties in De­cem­ber 2016. No mat­ter: Obiang Jr owns a sec­ond lux­ury yacht, the Ebony Ice, which is even longer. The pair to­gether are worth $250-mil­lion.

To put this in per­spec­tive: about three-quar­ters of the pop­u­la­tion of Equa­to­rial Guinea lives be­low the poverty line of $1.90 per day.

But Obiang Jr’s taste for the high life may fi­nally be catch­ing up with him. Sus­pi­cion about the source of his wealth has prompted in­ves­ti­ga­tions in at least four dif­fer­ent coun­tries, as well as a crim­i­nal trial in France. Ear­lier this week, the French court re­turned its verdict, find­ing him guilty of cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing. The court handed down a sus­pended sen­tence of three years in jail and a €30-mil­lion fine, and seized more than $100-mil­lion in as­sets.

“This verdict against Teodorin Obiang is fur­ther proof that ram­pant gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion in Equa­to­rial Guinea has robbed its peo­ple of their coun­try’s oil wealth,” said Sarah Saadoun, busi­ness and hu­man rights re­searcher at Hu­man Rights Watch. “The French gov­ern­ment should repa­tri­ate the money en­sur­ing it goes to key ser­vices where it should have been spent.”

The list of as­sets con­fis­cated from Obiang Jr in France and else­where in the world il­lus­trate the ex­tra­or­di­nary scale of his spend­ing.

In France, au­thor­i­ties seized a 101room man­sion in Paris, com­plete with its own pri­vate club and gold­plated bath­rooms; a col­lec­tion of su­per­cars; and orig­i­nal paint­ings by De­gas and Renoir.

In Switzer­land, an­other col­lec­tion

“Through re­lent­less em­bez­zle­ment and ex­tor­tion, Vi­cePres­i­dent Obiang shame­lessly looted his gov­ern­ment”

Hustler: Vice-pres­i­dent Teodorin Obiang — the son of Equa­to­rial Guinea’s pres­i­dent Teodoro Obiang — flaunts his lav­ish life­style de­spite the ex­treme poverty faced by many in his coun­try. Photo: Jerome Leroy/AFP

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