On Monday, the United Nations top court opened a three-day hearing into Equatorial Guinea’s plea that the body step in to halt France from carrying out a corruption case against their Vice President Teodorin Obiang.
The Vice President of Equatorial Guinea is also the son of the President of the country Teodoro Obiang Nguema. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has ruled the country since 1979 making him Africa’s longest-serving leader.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema appointed his son, Teodorin Obiang, as vice president in June. At the time, France had already launched the first charges against Teodorin.
Vice president Teodorin Obiang is meant to appear before a Paris court on October 24 on charges of plundering his country’s coffers to fund his jet-set lifestyle. In its plea to the International Court of Justice of the UN, the country’s government said that it is angered by the “unfair and insulting manner in which our country is currently treated by France.”
The plea also says that “The potential damage to Equatorial Guinea’s sovereign rights is serious and imminent.” They also allege that France has violated the VP’s right to diplomatic immunity.
Equatorial Guinea is, therefore, demanding that French proceedings be frozen until the UN tribunal, set up to rule in disputes between states, hands down its ruling.
The lawyer who presented the case before the ICJ, Michael Wood, said;
“The ongoing criminal proceedings against the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, charged with national defence and state security, represent a real and imminent risk.”
He argues that it will cause “irreparable” harm to Equatorial Guinea’s “standing in the world” and its international relations. French authorities, meanwhile, say that at the stage they are in their proceedings they could “at any time and without advance notice… issue an arrest warrant that could be executed in France or abroad.”
With that proclamation by the French authorities, Obiang is now “unable to travel freely abroad to carry out his official functions.” As to where it all began, in 2012, French authorities swooped on the Obiang family’s six-storey mansion on Avenue Foch, one of the most upmarket addresses in Paris.
They had seized a fleet of luxury cars including two Bugatti Veyrons and a Rolls-Royce Phantom along with a vanload of valuables, including paintings, a $4.2 million clock and fine wines worth thousands of euros per bottle.
Equatorial Guinea’s fight is that France be ordered to recognize that the building on Avenue Foch is a diplomatic mission. It’s an interesting fight for a country where per capita national income stands at over $10,000 for a population of less than a million while more than half the people live on less than $2 a day.