Equatorial Guinea’s ruling party has dubbed a French court’s sentence on its president’s son a “failure” for the NGOs who launched the legal action for embezzlement of part of the country’s wealth.
The Paris court on Friday passed a suspended three-year prison sentence accompanied by a 30-million-euro suspended fine on Teodorin Obiang, the son of President Teodoro Obiang who is also the country’s vice-president, a less severe punishment than that proposed by prosecutors.
The court also ordered property seized from Obiang, including a Paris mansion worth 107 million euros, to be confiscated, although Equatorial Guinea is fighting the seizure, claiming that the house was a diplomatic mission.
“The sentence is a true failure for the fake NGOs and opponents whose only intention was to destabilise Equatorial Guinea’s institutions,” the ruling PDGE party declared in a statement read on national television.
And Obiang’s lawyer, Sergio Esono Abeso Tomo, claimed that the case was politically motivated and an “abuse of power” by France, which “still wants to show that it is a [world] power”.
Opposition MP Placido Mico told RFI he was happy with the guilty verdict but disappointed by the sentence.
“I’m scandalised by the level, the amount of corruption in Equatorial Guinea and the impunity,” he commented. “I see it every day but I can understand that the judge may not have the same evidence as I have. If the judge had the direct knowledge that we, citizens of this country, have, the sentence would have been harsher.”
The judge must have had “diplomatic relations” between France and Malabo in mind when he ruled in favour of a suspended jail sentence and suspended fine, Mico said.
NGO wants French law change
Transparency International, which launched the case along with another NGO, Sherpa, called for the seized goods to be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea and not paid into the coffers of the French state.
Its chairman,Marc-André Feffer, is to suggest changes to French law to make this possible at a meeting in the National Assembly next month.
Based on a law adopted by Switzerland in 2015, it proposes that seized funds be placed in a special account that would finance special projects in the country in liaison with French and Guinean NGOs.