U.S. prosecutors add charges in Equatorial Guinea graft case
DAKAR (Reuters) - Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, spent more than $300 million during a decade of high living financed by bribes and embezzlement, according to a new filing by U.S. prosecutors.
The filing this week came after a judge told prosecutors in April they must provide more evidence of wrongdoing to be able to seize assets including a $30 million Malibu estate, private jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia collection.
The new account, obtained by Reuters, nearly triples past estimates of spending since 2000 by the man widely known as "Teodorin", alleging that he used his post as forestry minister of the oil-rich state to demand kickbacks.
"Nguema (Teodorin) refused to sign timber export licenses unless applicants first paid him these personal fees," prosecutors said, adding that Teodorin also requested 15,000 CFA francs ($28.80) for every log exported.
Prosecutors alleged that Teodorin also operated schemes to embezzle millions of dollars of funds by securing government contracts through his own companies and then receiving payments well in excess of the official size of the contracts.
"For every year between 2000 and 2011, (Teodorin's) enormous personal expenditures vastly outpaced and were inconsistent with both his official salary of less than $100,000 per year, and the fraudulent income he purportedly generated from his companies," prosecutors said.
They also cited the example of Isoroy, a French forestry company, which obtained an agreement to harvest timber from 57,053 hectares of wilderness in 1995 after paying Teodorin an initial 15 million CFA francs and making subsequent payments.
"Isoroy ... paid Nguema in or around the equivalent of $104,000 every one or two months in order to be able to continue to operate in Equatorial Guinea from 1993 to 1996," they allege.
The U.S.-based public relations company hired by Equatorial Guinea said it had no comment on the new filings and pointed to previous statements by his lawyers that he became wealthy thanks to a legal concession he won to harvest timber in his country.
A spokeswoman for Paris-based Isoroy said by telephone she had no details or recollection of the company's activities in Equatorial Guinea during that period and noted that the company no longer had operations there.
Teodorin's father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has ruled the former Spanish colony for more than three decades, making him one of the Africa's longest-serving leader, and rights groups have labeled his regime one of the world's most corrupt.
Teodorin is widely seen as a potential successor after his appointment in May as vice-president.
"The filing provides a new wealth of detail of how Teodorin supposedly accepted bribes, inflated contracts and had his hand on the government till," said Robert Palmer of governance and human rights watchdog Global Witness.
($1 = 520.7450 CFA francs)
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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