Obiang's son must face embezzlement charges

Paris - A French appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's long-running dictator also known for his love of Michael Jackson memorabilia, does not have immunity for prosecution on embezzlement charges.

Obiang, one of the country's vice presidents, is accused of looting the coffers in his desperately poor country to fund his lavish tastes, including the purchase of Jackson's famous white glove.

French prosecutors ordered the seizure of the Obiang family's six-storey mansion on the chic Avenue Foch in Paris as well as several luxury cars after charging him with money laundering and misappropriation in March 2014.

They also took away van-loads of possessions including paintings by famous artists, a $4.2m clock and wines worth thousands a bottle.

The 46-year-old's father, Teodoro Obiang, has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist since seizing power in a military coup in 1979.

Human Rights Watch accuses the government of "serious abuses, including torture, arbitrary detention, and unfair trials".

The younger Obiang has also been pursued by US authorities, who accused him of racking up more than $300m through embezzlement, extortion, and money laundering, while earning a government salary of less than $100 000 a year.

US prosecutors forced Obiang to turn over more than $30m in ill-gotten gains - including a Malibu villa, a Ferrari and Michael Jackson memorabilia - in October 2014.

"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," US Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at the time.

French prosecutors are pursuing several African leaders for corruption as a result of the assets they hold in France, including the Congo's Denis Sassou Nguesso and Gabon's Omar Bongo.


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