Equatorial Guinea sues France in UN court over Paris mansion

Equatorial Guinea has filed a case against France at the International Court of Justice accusing Paris of “misappropriation of public funds,” the court said Friday. It is the latest step in a lengthy legal battle over a mansion on an expensive avenue in the French capital.

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The latest case relates to the conviction, upheld on appeal last year, in France of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s long-serving president, for money laundering and misappropriation of millions of dollars in public money. The French court sentenced him to three years in jail, fined him 30 million euros and ordered the seizure of property in France worth tens of millions of euros. That included the mansion on Avenue Foch, which France now plans to sell.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice said Equatorial Guinea says it has made requests, based on a United Nations anti-corruption treaty, “to recover certain assets corresponding to properties confiscated by France” to which the French government has not responded. . One of the requested assets is the Avenue Foch mansion. The African country filed the case against France on Thursday.

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Equatorial Guinea argues that by “failing to comply” with the request, France “violated its obligations under the treaty,” the court said.

The African nation is asking the court to rule that France is violating the UN convention and to order France “to return to Equatorial Guinea all property that is the subject of a recovery request from Equatorial Guinea.”

It also asks the court to immediately order an injunction on the sale of the mansion on the broad avenue leading to the Arc de Triomphe.

Although the case in the Hague court could take years, a hearing is likely to be scheduled in the coming weeks to discuss the urgent request for the sales ban.

It is not the first time that the mansion has been the subject of a case before the highest judicial body of the UN. In December 2020, the World Court ruled that the property was never a diplomatic outpost, rejecting Equatorial Guinea’s argument that it served as the country’s embassy and therefore France could not seize it under a treaty that the diplomatic relations between countries.

Obiang was accused by French prosecutors of spending tens of millions of dollars in France with funds derived from corruption, embezzlement and extortion in his country. He led a lavish lifestyle that included luxury and sports cars, designer clothes, great value works of art and high-quality real estate.

Despite its oil and gas wealth, Equatorial Guinea has a dramatic divide between its privileged ruling class and much of the population, who mainly thrive on subsistence farming. The former Spanish colony is headed by Africa’s longest-serving president, Obiang’s father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

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