U.S. “Kleptocracy Initiative” Swoops Down on African Official Living in Malibu

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue (photo: Abdelhak Senna, Agence France Presse)

The son and heir-apparent to the president of Equatorial Guinea—AllGov’s July 2011 “Dictator of the Month”— agreed to give up his $30 million Malibu home, Michael Jackson memorabilia collection, a Ferrari and other stuff in a settlement with the U.S. government over corruption claims.

Federal officials said the deal was part of a crackdown on corrupt foreign leaders living in the U.S. that it calls the “Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.”

Second Vice President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue’s dad, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was a featured AllGov dictator in July 2011 and rated a chapter in AllGov publisher David Wallechinsky's book, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators. The tiny West African country of 650,000, cobbled together by colonial powers at the turn of the 20th Century, has suffered a succession of despotic rulers for decades.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the son would be a fine addition to the rogue’s gallery that has run the country. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement:

“Through relentless embezzlement and extortion, Vice President Nguema Obiang shamelessly looted his government and shook down businesses in his country to support his lavish lifestyle, while many of his fellow citizens lived in extreme poverty. After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States.”

The government accused the son of amassing assets worth $300 million on an annual salary of less than $100,000 “through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both Equatoguinean and U.S. law.”

The government did not get all of the son’s loot. The Los Angeles Times said he managed to ship half his property out of the U.S., including a Bentley, a Bugatti, a Rolls Royce and Jackson’s $275,000 white glove from the “Bad” tour. He agreed to forfeit six life-size statues of the deceased performer.  

Wallechinsky wrote that the son was the most colorful member of the extended family that runs Equatorial Guinea. He was the first in his country to own a Rolls, before moving to California. After relocating to Malibu from Beverly Hills, he started a rap music company, TNO Entertainment, and signed Won G to a contract. Won G’s first album had a song dedicated to him entitled “Nothing’s Wrong” and the singer’s latest single is called “I Can’t Sleep.”

Equatorial Guinea, once known as Spanish Guinea, became self-governing in the 1960s. The Constitution was inspired by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Francisco Macías Nguema won a three-person contest for the presidency in 1968. He tortured and killed one of the losers. His atrocities were legion, not the least of which was his destruction of the nation’s economy.      

Macias reportedly killed about 20,000 people while 100,000 fled into exile. He was overthrown by his nephew, the current president, in 1979 and executed by a firing squad.

The new president was as brutal as his predecessor and the economy continued to decline. But oil was discovered in 1995 and the country’s gross national product grew. Unfortunately, most of that good fortune stayed concentrated in the dictator’s family.

The Kleptocracy Initiative was announced in 2010 and the Justice Department says it has recovered around $600 million of $1.2 billion it sought in 15 cases involving people from 14 countries, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most of that money, $480 million, came from former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.

“We are protecting our own financial system from becoming a haven for kleptocracies,” Caldwell told the media Friday. The settlement did not require Obiang Nguema to admit any wrongdoing, and the Justice Department agreed not to pursue a criminal investigation.       

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

African VP Keeps His Michael Jackson Stuff (by Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News Service)

Foreign Official Gives Up Malibu Home in Federal "Kleptocracy" Probe (by Timothy M. Phelps, Los Angeles Times)

Equatorial Guinea Official Reaches $30 Million Corruption Settlement with U.S. (by Evan Perez, CNN)

When U.S. Targets Foreign Leaders for Corruption, Recovering Loot Is a Challenge (by James V. Grimaldi, Wall Street Journal)

Equatorial Guinea Ambassador Accused of Beating Daughter with Chair Leg (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Dictator of the Month: Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Second Vice President of Equatorial Guinea Agrees to Relinquish More Than $30 Million of Assets Purchased with Corruption Proceeds (U.S. Department of Justice)

Leave a comment