Judge Orders Equatorial Guinea’s Power Broker to Apologize to Journalist

A judge ordered one of Equatorial Guinea’s most influential lawyers, NJ Ayuk, to apologize and retract a series of defamatory statements he made against Delfin Mochache Massoko, a journalist who partnered with OCCRP on an investigation that exposed how millions of dollars were allegedly siphoned in bribes by the country's oil minister. 

Mocache MassokoInvestigative journalist Mocache Massoko (Photo: Facebook)The order was made on Thursday by a superior court in Johannesburg, South Africa, which determined that Ayuk made a series of “untrue allegations” against Massoko, and that he must issue a formal apology and cease the publication of any future unfounded claims against him.  

Ayuk was identified in OCCRP’s cross-border investigation published in January as a key player in the network of Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima, Equatorial Guinea’s oil minister and son of the president. 

Anti-corruption expert Lucas Oló told OCCRP that Ayuk, the CEO Centurion Law Group – a law firm which has offices that span across seven African countries – represents an important channel for winning oil-related contracts in Equatorial Guinea. 

“You can go with others and try if you want, but you may find yourself losing bids against other companies less capable but that went with Centurion,” he said. “That’s how they do it.”

Ayuk, who has been featured in Forbes and has also recently appeared as an expert for respected media outlets such as Deutsche Welle, went on a social media tirade upon the publication of OCCRP’s investigation, targeting its Equatoguinean partner journalist Massoko, who is also the founder of the digital newspaper Diario Rombe.

Rallying behind his over 200,000 followers on Twitter, along with releasing a statement on his firm’s website, Ayuk falsely accused Massoko of extortion, and said that he teamed up with a corrupt Spanish police officer to publish inaccurate stories about him and other African businessmen and politicians. 

“We are going to catch him,” Ayuk wrote on Twitter, saying that he is looking forward to questioning him and other “money-hungry charlatans” who assisted him with his investigation.