U.S. seeks to seize Malibu home, memorabilia from Equatorial Guinea official
The federal government is moving to seize $70.8 million in assets, including a Malibu mansion, a Gulfstream jet and $2 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, from the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, alleging that the wealth was acquired through corruption and laundered in the United States.
One complaint unsealed and another filed Tuesday allege that, as a minister for his home country, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue used his position to amass a fortune by extorting money from foreign companies and through embezzlement, theft and misappropriatation of funds, although his official salary was less than $100,000 a year.
Nguema serves as minister of forestry and agriculture for Equatorial Guinea and is the son of President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo. According to the complaints, Nguema and a small circle of associates sold natural resources from the country for their personal gain.
He then allegedly used intermediaries and corporations to acquire his assets in the U.S., including a white, crystal-covered “Bad Tour” glove formerly belonging to Michael Jackson, a $30-million house in Malibu, and a succession of luxury cars, including a 2011 Ferrari.
At one point, the complaint alleges, Nguema had 24 luxury cars worth $9.68 million stored at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, until he shipped them to France in November 2010.
The investigation into Nguema’s assets was carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Initiative.
DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the ultimate goal is to return the funds, in some fashion, to the people of Equatorial Guinea.
“While his people struggled, he lived the high life,” said Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement. “ … Through our Kleptocracy Initiative, we are sending the message loud and clear: the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world’s corrupt leaders.”
Representatives at Equatorial Guinea's embassy in Washington could not be immediately reached for comment.
-- Abby Sewell