France approves arrest warrant for son of E. Guinea president

PARIS Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:04am EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - A French prosecutor on Wednesday approved an investigator's request for an international arrest warrant for the son of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema on money laundering charges, a judicial source said.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, widely known as "Teodorin", is agriculture minister in the small oil-producing central African country.

French judges had earlier requested a warrant for him on suspicion he had bought real estate in France with public money from Equatorial Guinea. Teodorin has denied wrongdoing.

The judges had also asked for permission from Equatorial Guinea to question Teodorin, but that request has been rejected, Olivier Pardo, an attorney for the government of Equitorial Guinea, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Pardo said he found the warrant "totally incomprehensible."

"If you wanted to upset relations between the two countries, this is the way to do it," he said.

Equatorial Guinea's government has condemned as a provocation the move by the judges to seek Teodorin's arrest and warned Paris it considered retaliating.

The president defended his son this week in an interview with French TV France 24, saying that Teodorin had a company involved with forestry and road-building. "He didn't take any money," he told the channel.

The judges' case could have repercussions beyond Equatorial Guinea as it also targets the families of Gabonese President Ali Bongo and Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, both of whom have luxury properties in Paris and bank accounts.

(Reporting By Thierry Leveque; Writing by Alexandria Sage and Leigh Thomas; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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