E Guinea probes graft watchdog for slander

2012-04-17 14:59

Libreville - Equatorial Guinea's public prosecutor has launched a probe into whether the head of the French wing of corruption watchdog Transparency International slandered the country, officials said on Tuesday.

The investigation of Daniel Lebegue comes after French prosecutors called for an international arrest warrant for Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, to face questioning in a corruption probe that grew out of Transparency International accusations.

"The public prosecutor has opened an investigation Monday on the statements by Daniel Lebegue ... who has stated in international media that Equatorial Guinea is a country where corruption obstructs business, the authorities are corrupt and there is no safety in the justice system," a statement said.

"The public prosecutor is studying these remarks by Mr Lebegue that could constitute the offence of slander and insulting the state, since paradoxically ... Mr Lebegue is, among other positions he holds, director and auditor of the company Technip SA, which operates in the Aseng oil fields.

"Mr Lebegue has neither detected nor denounced any corruption in the operations his company is undertaking in Equatorial Guinea," it added.

French authorities opened probes in 2010 into the sources of money spent in France by Obiang, Congo-Brazzaville's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Omar Bongo, the late president of Gabon.

The investigation follows charges brought in 2008 by Transparency International alleging that the leaders and their relatives spent state funds on lavish purchases in France.

The case has drawn Equatorial Guinea's ire, with Malabo threatening to take retaliatory measures against French companies and demanding that Paris halt the investigation.

Teodorin Obiang's lawyer has said his French purchases were made "in perfect transparency".