The corruption trial of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, ended in Paris on 6 July with the prosecution calling for a three-year jail term, a €30 million (US$34 million) fine and the confiscation of assets. The Tribunal will return a verdict on 27 October.
The 48-year-old vice-president of Equatorial Guinea was not in court to hear the prosecution’s claim that he used money stolen from his country’s treasury and laundered through a shell company to fund a lavish lifestyle in France.
Over 75 per cent of people in my country live below the poverty line, where thousands of people lack clean water, food, housing, decent hospitals or adequate schools or basic dignity.
The trial comes after a decade-long fight by Transparency International and Sherpa to win the right for civil society to present evidence. It required a change to French law and a crowdfunding campaign to ensure the case was heard.
The defence tried to argue that it was illegal for a French court to hear the case but the judge disagreed. The alleged money-laundering took place in France.
It is an honour for me and for our country to host the first trial of a kleptocrat. The twenty-first century will demonstrate the intolerance of all the world citizens to powerful people using their power to become wealthier.
Brave witnesses for the prosecution testified knowing that the situation in Equatorial Guinea is tense for their families. Two witnesses are currently seeking political asylum in Spain and should be granted full protection.
Obiang is accused of using stolen money to buy, among other things, a 20-room apartment worth an estimated €80 million (US$91 million) in Paris and a garage full of luxury cars.
This is a milestone against impunity in the history of the anti-corruption movement. The citizens of Equatorial Guinea have a voice to help them win justice in the face of grand corruption.
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.
This is not the first time Obiang has been indicted. In 2014, Obiang reached a settlement in the US on separate corruption charges. He was forced to sell a multi-million dollar mansion in Malibu, California and donate US$30 million to a charity to help people in Equatorial Guinea. This settlement attracted considerable global attention.
For Transparency International, it is vital that the final outcome of cases of foreign corruption result in the return of assets to the victims.