EQ Guinea President’s Son Wanted in France

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A French judge has issued an arrest warrant for the son of Equatorial Guinea's president, after the son refused to be interviewed about corruption charges.

Teodorin Obiang has previously denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Olivier Pardo, told VOA Friday that his client is not subject to arrest because of his post in Equatorial Guinea's government.

“Mr. Teodorin Obiang Nguema is the vice president of his country,” Pardo says. “International laws mention clearly that a VP has a total immunity. This warrant is illegal.”

Judge Roger Le Loire issued the warrant this week as part a probe into alleged corruption by three African presidents — Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang, Republic of Congo's Dennis Sassou-Nguesso and Gabon's late leader Omar Bongo.

Activists say all three men and their families used state funds for lavish purchases in France. French police seized a fleet of luxury cars from an Obiang residence in Paris last September.

U.S. officials are conducting their own investigation of the younger Obiang. Last October, the U.S. Justice Department said it sought to recover more than $70 million in property from him, including a jet plane, a California mansion and nearly $2 million in Michael Jackson memorabilia.

President Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea since seizing power in a 1979 coup. Political activists say the president is lining up his son to succeed him.

The country is the third-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, behind Nigeria and Angola, but most of the wealth has remained in the hands of the country's elite.