Friday, March 02, 2012

Obiang Responds . . . Foolishly

According to a report by RFI, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, whose Paris residence was raided last month by French authorities as part of the biens mal acquis investigation, plans to sue Daniel Lebègue, president of the French branch of Transparency International.  TI in France and a second French NGO, Sherpa, played key roles in pursuading the government to undertake the biens mal acquis investigation that is targeting French assets of the ruling families of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Cameroon.  Obiang alleges that Lebègue has libeled him by publicly accusing him of stealing money from the public treasury of Equatorial Guinea.

RFI reports that French police took 200 cubic meters worth of objets d'art from the Obiang estate on Avenue Foch.  Equatorial Guinea claims that the building was used for diplomatic purposes, making the French seizures a violation of diplomatic immunity, and that the lavish furnishings were appropriate expenditures given the diplomatic function.  French authorities counter that the estate contained a nightclub, a hair salon, and other rooms not normally found in diplomatic properties.

If the suit against Mr. Lebègue proceeds, Transparency International and other NGOs will no doubt relish the opportunity to prove in a court of law that the Obiang family is using Equatorial Guinea's petroleum income for private purposes.  This, in fact, is what they have fought to have happen since 2007.