September 7, 2016 / 4:32 PM / 3 years ago

Son of Equatorial Guinea leader to face trial in France: Prosecutor's office

PARIS (Reuters) - The son of Equatorial Guinea’s president is to face trial in France for suspected money laundering, the office of the financial prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Teodorin Obiang, the son of President Teodoro Obiang, is vice president of the small central African state, where a majority of the population lives in poverty despite rich oil reserves.

His lawyer declined to comment.

Obiang has denied wrongdoing and has said his wealth, which has allowed him to buy luxury real estate in Paris, a private jet and a stable of exotic sports cars, was amassed legitimately through successful business dealings.

The trial would be the first to result from a broader French investigation into money laundering, also targeting the families of Gabon’s late president, Omar Bongo, and Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Together they are suspected of owning 63 luxury properties in Paris and some 200 bank accounts.

The presidents deny any wrongdoing, and Sassou Nguesso told the French courts in 2013 not to intervene in his country’s internal affairs.

Obiang appealed for charges against him to be dropped last year on grounds of diplomatic immunity, but the Cour de Cassation court at the time ruled the charges related “exclusively to his private life in France” and not to his official functions.

Reporting by Gerard Bon; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Richard Lough

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