The Department of Justice has moved to force the son of an African dictator to sell a $30 million cliff-top Malibu mansion, a Ferrari and six life-size Michael Jackson statues purchased with money embezzled from his country, according to settlement papers filed today in Los Angeles.
Once Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue — vice president of Equatorial Guinea and son of the impoverished African country’s president — sells the items, $20 million will be given to a charitable organization for the benefit of his country’s people and another $10.3 million will be forfeited to the United States partly for the citizens Equatorial Guinea, according to the DOJ.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
“After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States,” she said. “This settlement forces Nguema Obiang to relinquish assets worth an estimated $30 million, and prevents Nguema Obiang from hiding other stolen money in the United States.”
Under the agreement, Obiang — who reportedly once attended Pepperdine University — must also disclose and remove other assets he owns in the United States and make a $1 million payment to the U.S. for the value of Jackson memorabilia already taken out of the country.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Obiang said he was pleased to end “this long and costly ordeal,” which had become “a significant distraction from my official responsibilities and an unnecessary irritant in the relationship between Equatorial Guinea and the United States.”
He said he agreed to the settlement “despite the fact that the U.S. federal courts had consistently found that the Department of Justice lacked probable cause to seize my property, which was acquired with funds earned in accordance with the laws of my country and through business dealings inside and outside Equatorial Guinea.”
As part of the settlement, the government will allow Obiang to keep a Gulfstream jet, a yacht and other items from his Jackson collection, including a white, crystal-encrusted glove from the late singer’s “Bad” tour. The government filed three civil cases in Los Angeles federal court since 2011 accusing Obiang of buying the items with proceeds looted from Equatorial Guinea.
Obiang received an official government salary of less than $100,000, but used his position and influence as a government minister to amass more than $300 million worth of assets, according to federal prosecutors.
Next week, the parties are expected to request that U.S. District Judge George Wu enter the orders to implement and enforce the agreement.
The tiny, oil-rich state of Equatorial Guinea consists of five inhabited islands and a portion of mainland jungle. It has a population of about 520,000. Obiang’s father seized power in 1979.