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Equatorial Guinea takes France to court over corruption inquiry

Latest update : 2012-09-26

Equatorial Guinea has requested the International Court of Justice to order France to end a graft probe into leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema's family. The move comes after France seized a multi-million euro Paris mansion belonging to the family in July.

Equatorial Guinea has asked the International Court of Justice to order France to end a graft probe into leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema's family, a lawyer for the oil-rich African nation said Wednesday.

"The republic of Equatorial Guinea has referred the matter to the world's highest court in order to prohibit any interference by France in the affairs of Equatorial Guinea and to compel France to stop all prosecutions and investigations against its highest officials," lawyer Olivier Metzner told news agency AFP.

The ICJ confirmed the move, saying Malabo had filed a suit on Monday asking it to "put an end to these breaches of international law" by asking France to "bring a halt to (the) criminal proceedings."

However, France's consent is required before the case can be taken up, which Equatorial Guinea said "will certainly be given," according to the ICJ statement.

The move follows the seizure by France in July of a Paris mansion, reportedly worth more than 100 million euros ($130 million), in connection with an investigation into the president's son, Teodorin Obiang.

The six-storey mansion on the chic Avenue Foch in the 16th district was earlier raided in February, when police removed vanloads of possessions including paintings by famous artists, a clock worth an estimated three million euros and wines worth thousands of euros a bottle.

In September last year, 11 of the Obiang family's luxury cars, including Ferraris and Bugattis, were also seized in Paris as part of the investigation.

French investigators in July issued an international arrest warrant for Teodorin Obiang as part of an embezzlement probe, but his lawyers have said the president's son benefits from diplomatic immunity.

Equatorial Guinea has protested against the seizure saying the mansion was "a state building for diplomatic use."

The ICJ statement said Malabo also wanted The Hague-based court to "take all measures to nullify the effects of the arrest warrant against the second vice-president of Equatorial Guinea."

Teodorin Obiang has since May been second vice-president of the country, which has been ruled with an iron fist since 1979 by his father.

French investigating magistrates have since 2010 been probing the source of money spent in France by Obiang, Congo-Brazzaville's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Omar Bongo, the late president of Gabon.

The charges were brought by Transparency International, an anti-corruption campaign group which alleges several African leaders and their relatives spent state funds from their countries on lavish purchases in France.

Equatorial Guinea's main opposition parties have accused the veteran president -- who recently marked 33 years in power and is Africa's longest-standing head of state -- of lining up his son to succeed him.

(AFP)

Date created : 2012-09-26

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