The son of Equatorial Guinea’s president went on trial on Monday in his absence in Paris on charges of using money plundered from his country to buy Parisian luxury properties and exotic cars.
Teodorin Obiang, eldest son of President Teodoro Obiang and a vice-president himself, denies charges of laundering embezzled public funds, for which he risks a sentence of 10 years in jail and huge fines if convicted.
The case is the first of several to reach court in a broader judicial investigation into allegations of illicit acquisitions in France by long-time leaders and family relatives in several African countries including Gabon and Congo Republic.
Obiang was already put on trial in January but the case, which has been 10 years in the works, was postponed after his lawyers argued their client had not had enough time to prepare his defence.
Among the acquisitions at the centre of the trial is a large property bought for 25 million euros ($28 million) in 2005 on Paris’s upmarket Avenue Foch, with gymnasium, hammam steam room, hair-dressing studio and a discotheque with cinema screen.
In addition to luxury clothing and jewels, prosecutors say Obiang, built up an exceptional collection of costly cars, which along with clothes, jewels and real estate took the value of all his assets to around 100 million euros.
Beyond Obiang’s case, the broader French probe known as the “ill-gotten assets” investigation concerns purchases in France by the family of Gabon leader Ali Bongo as well as Congo Republic leader Denis Sassou Nguesso.