Equatorial Guinea Vice President charged with money laundering

By Christine Duhaime | March 20th, 2014

The Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodorin Obiang, has been charged with money laundering in a multinational corruption case in which it is alleged that he illegally moved state assets to other countries, including France. His lawyer in France, Olivier Metzner, was found dead last year floating in the sea in Gulf of Morbihan.

Politically exposed person

Mr. Obiang is the son of of the President of Equatorial Guinea. He was the subject of a US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Money Laundering Report on the use of lawyers for laundering proceeds of crime by politically exposed persons, summarized here. Pursuant to that Report, Mr. Obiang hired US attorneys to set up shell companies for the purposes of laundering $100 million into the US through law firm trust accounts. Funds were used for lavish expenses, such as a house in Malibu and a private jet, and to attend parties at the Playboy Mansion. Mr. Obiang was a politically exposed person.

Mr. Obiang’s assets in France were frozen after financial magistrates in France began investigating the conditions under which he acquired property in France. Before his untimely death, Mr. Obiang’s former lawyer said that his client was not subject to French law, which is true.

Canadian family of Gabon Former President Allegedly Implicated

The French investigation also involves another politically exposed person who was the subject of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security Report, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, the President of Gabon, who is deceased. The Report describes how one of his wives, Marie-Yva Astier and his daughter, Yamilee Bongo-Astier, both granted Canadian citizenship, allegedly laundered state assets in North America. Ms. Bongo-Astier laundered funds for her father in the US and had over $1 million cash in her safety deposit box at a New York bank, according to the Report. The New York bank thought her activities were suspicious but because Ms. Bongo-Astier produced a Canadian passport and said she was from Canada, the compliance officer did not investigate the origin of funds. Ms. Bongo-Astier and her mother are politically exposed persons in Canada, the US and many other jurisdictions that have anti-money laundering laws in force.

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