Eq. Guinea: Lawyer Facing Charges After Prosecuting President’s Son
Equatorial Guinea issued an arrest warrant against a French anti-corruption lawyer as an alleged retaliation for his involvement in prosecuting the president’s son, human rights groups claimed Friday.
William Bourdon was involved in the 2017 trial of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, charged in absentia for money-laundering, embezzlement and abuse of trust.
“It seems they are fabricating charges to retaliate against those who helped a French court convict him for his crimes,” said Tutu Alicante, director of EG Justice, a human rights group in Equatorial Guinea.
Obiang received a three-year suspended prison sentence and a 30 million Euro fine (US$35 million). Prosecutors claim he spent more than $100 million in France on a six-storey Paris mansion, vintage wines and a fleet of luxury cars.
“The Equatorial Guinean government has used every trick in the book to shield the president’s son from credible allegations of stealing more than 100 million euros ($113 million) in public funds,” said Alicante.
Equatorial Guinea’s National Security Ministry released a statement on January 23 accusing 16 people, including Bourdon, of money laundering and terrorist financing.
A prominent anti-corruption lawyer, Bourdon has led lawsuits against close relatives of several African heads of state and frequently represents whistleblowers including Edward Snowden and Jean-Jacques Lumumba.
“What we are seeing in Equatorial Guinea right now is not new but part of the government’s long standing pattern of silencing critical voices,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner.
In 2013 Amnesty raised concerns over Roberto Berardi, an Italian building contractor and former business partner of Obiang who was charged with fraud and embezzlement. Berardi was allegedly imprisoned and tortured to stop him testifying about Obiang’s reported corruption to the US Justice Department.
Despite being the richest country per head in mainland Africa, more than three quarters of Equatorial Guinea’s population live in poverty on less than $1.90 a day.
Contrastingly, Obiang’s assets are worth more than $300 million according to the US Justice Department. The US took him to court in 2011 in an attempt to seize a $30 million Malibu mansion, a Gulfstream Jet and $1 million in Michael Jackson memorabilia.