THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday called on judges at the U.N.’s highest court to order France to halt proceedings against its vice president on charges of money laundering and corruption.
In its demand before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the central African nation sought urgent intervention to block the trial of Teodorin Obiang, the son of President Teodoro Obiang, which is due to open on Oct. 24.
Obiang is claiming diplomatic immunity, but a French court ruled the charges relate to his private life in France and not to his official functions.
Obiang, who is in charge of defense and security affairs, denies wrongdoing and has said his wealth, which has enabled him to buy luxury real estate in Paris, a private jet and exotic sports cars, was amassed legitimately.
Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Carmelo Vvono Nca, on Wednesday told a panel of judges that failure to stop the French case would cause irreparable damage to the country’s sovereign rights and reputation.
“You (France) have made false accusations against my country,” he said. “With the judicial proceedings entertained by the French court, they are prejudicing the right of the sovereign state of Equatorial Guinea in its duty to pursue international relations with states and international bodies.”
He asked the court to suspend all criminal proceedings against Obiang.
Equatorial Guinea first launched the case in The Hague in June, arguing the French proceeding violated Obiang’s immunity.
Typically, the court takes several months to decide on such requests.
Obiang’s 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.
On Tuesday, Swiss prosecutor said they too had started a preliminary investigation into Obiang.
Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Richard Balmforth