The trial has begun in Paris of the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is accused of using money plundered from his native country to buy lavish properties, cars and other goods in France.
It’s the first case to come to court, of several being investigated by French authorities into allegedly illegal acquisitions by African leaders and their relatives.
The 48-year-old Teodoro Obiang, who is also his country’s vice president was absent on the first day. Represented by his lawyer, he denies charges of laundering embezzled public funds. If convicted, he could face 10 years in jail and a large fine.
Obiang’s lawyer asked for the trial to be suspended to allow more time for the defence, arguing that his client was only summoned to trial three weeks ago and the case was complex. The request is being considered; the court said it would decide on Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Obiang’s $80,000 salary as farming and forestry minister in the small oil-rich African country, a post which prevented him from doing other business, did not tally with his purchases.
They included a 25-million euro property on the upmarket Avenue Foch in Paris, a collection of expensive cars, plus jewels and luxury clothes – assets worth a total of around 100 million euros. Obiang says his purchases were above-board.
He also faces investigations in other European countries and has been forced to give up property in America.
French investigators are also examining acquisitions in the country by families of the leader of Gabon, Ali Bongo, and the leader of the Republic of Congo, Dennis Sassou Nguesso.