Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Badly Acquired Property": Decision On Possible Postponement Of The Obiang Trial

French justice must say Wednesday if it postpones the first trial in the case of "badly acquired property" as requested by the defense of Teodorin Obiang, son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, accused of having fraudulently built a considerable heritage in France.

The decision of the Paris Criminal Court is expected around 9:00 am.

Former Minister of Agriculture and Forestry promoted at the end of June by his father Teodoro Obiang Nguema vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodorin Obiang is prosecuted for the laundering of abuse of social assets, embezzlement of public funds, breach of trust And corruption.

He faces up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to 50 million euros but challenges the offenses with which he is accused.

At the opening of the hearing Monday, in the absence of the defendant, his lawyers asked for the trial to be postponed, considering that the delays were too short to prepare "effectively" his defense.

The national financial prosecutor, as the lawyer of the Transparency International association, William Bourdon, expressed their opposition, seeing in this application a new "dilatory maneuver". And this in a procedure where Teodorin Obiang has multiplied the remedies, mainly to support, until the Court of Cassation, that it would be protected by diplomatic immunity. In vain.

But it is another question that the president of the court, Bénédicte de Perthuis, has highlighted. It questions the consequences of proceedings still pending before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague (Netherlands).

Seized by Equatorial Guinea, which is challenging the French prosecution of its vice president, the ICJ issued an order on 7 December, at the end of which France must ensure for the moment the inviolability of a luxurious building Seized by the French justice system. Malabo presents this building in one of the most exclusive districts of Paris as diplomatic premises.

- The contested citation -

The ICJ order would prohibit the execution of any confiscation order, pending a decision on the merits of the case.

But waiting for the end of the ICJ proceedings would delay the trial before the French courts by two to three years, according to Me Bourdon.

This building on the avenue Foch, which belonged to Teodorin Obiang, illustrated the sumptuous expenses of the vice president of this small oil country of Central Africa. An unusual luxury, a way of life far removed from the daily life of his country in the Gulf of Guinea, where more than half of the inhabitants live below the poverty line.

In these apartments, the faucets are covered in gold leaf, the master has a hammam, a gym, a discotheque, a hairdresser, a cinema.

Several luxury cars and sports cars (Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Bugatti) were also seized and sold at auction.

When he is in Paris, Teodorin Obiang, an eternal bachelor with a cleverly studied look (black glasses, gummed hair, beard trimmed), spends entire cash bags at the couturiers on Avenue Montaigne.

At the end of the investigation, the judges estimated that its patrimony, valued at more than a hundred million euros, could not have been financed solely by its official income, but stemmed from "misappropriation of public funds" Of corruption.

If the request to dismiss the trial was rejected, Teodorin Obiang's defense sought to challenge the lawfulness of his summons before the court, as he was now domiciled abroad at the presidential palace in Malabo, Of his convocation.

What if the court decides nevertheless to start the examination of the merits? Would he be faced with empty defense benches?

"I am not accustomed to pronouncing on a decision that I do not know yet," said one of Mr. Obiang's advice, Emmanuel Marsigny, on Monday.

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