WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is seeking to seize almost $71 million in allegedly corrupt assets from the son of the leader of Equatorial Guinea, including $1.8 million worth of pop star Michael Jackson memorabilia.
The U.S. Justice Department accused Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, a minister for Equatorial Guinea and the son of longtime President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo, of amassing over $100 million and using the proceeds to fund a lavish life in the United States.
Nguema was accused in the forfeiture complaint of accumulating the wealth through several corruption schemes, including demanding payments from companies doing business in Equatorial Guinea, a deeply impoverished West African nation that is rich in oil, gas and timber resources.
Despite a salary of under $100,000, Nguema spent $275,000 for one of Jackson’s white crystal-covered gloves used during the late singer’s “Bad” tour as well as $80,000 for a pair of crystal-covered socks, according to court papers unsealed on Tuesday.
He also bought other Jackson memorabilia, including clothing, awards and autographs, including signed music sheets, according to the court papers.
The Justice Department asked the court for permission to seize the memorabilia as well as a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet, a $30 million house in Malibu, Calif., and a 2011 Ferrari worth more than $530,000, among other items.
Bank records in the United States also showed that money paid by oil companies to the Equatorial Guinea government were transferred into Nguema’s own bank account, according to the complaint.
The Justice Department has been increasing its efforts to crack down on foreign officials laundering corrupt funds through the United States.
The department filed to seize the Malibu home and Jackson memorabilia in federal court in Los Angeles and to seize the Gulfstream jet in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao