Equatorial Guinean government has asked that Brazil releases over $16m worth of cash and luxury watches seized from a delegation accompanying the vice president, Teodorin Nguema Obiang.
The country’s foreign minister bemoaned the seizure of last weekend, calling it a “measly and unfriendly” act.
Obiang’s who is also the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, arrived with ten others in in Brazil last Friday on board a private jet – which reports said was not on official assignment.
The money was seized because the amount far outstripped what is allowed under Brazilian law. The South American nation prohibits people from entering the country with more than $2,400 in cash.
Malabo has often waved the diplomatic flag when the vice-president has been involved in any issue with rival governments. Equatorial Guinea unsuccessfully tried last year to block Teodorin’s corruption trial in a French court.
In October 2017, the Paris court slapped a three-year sentence on him, seized a number of his assets running into the millions and imposing a fine of 30 million euros.
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Federal police and revenue authorities in Brazil over the weekend detained a delegation led by son of Equatorial Guinea president Teodorin Obinag Mang after they arrived in the country with over $1.4 million cash and watches worth $15 million.
A portuguese news portal, globo.com reported that the 11-man delegation arrived in Brazil on Friday on a governmnt aircraft but was not on a diplomatic mission.
Teodorin Nguema Obiang, who is also the vice-president of the West African country, arrived in Brazil late Friday night on a non-official mission. He was accompanied by 11 other people, none of whom had diplomatic immunity.
According to O Estado de São Paulo, Brazilian police found $1.5m in cash in one bag and watches worth an estimated $15m in another. The act was flagged as Brazil only requires people to enter the country with no more than $2400 in cash.
At the time the news hit the stands, the Brazilian foreign ministry was in consultation with police and customs over the issue to determine what measures must be taken.
There has been no official word from the Equatorial Guinea embassy in Brazil over the matter, although a diplomat was quoted saying that the money was to fund a medical procedure the younger Obiang was to undergo. The watches, according to the diplomat, was for the president’s son’s personal use as they were engraved with his initials.
Obiang has come under constant criticism for his lavish lifestyle at the expense of Equatorial Guineans. He has also been the subject of many money-laundering and corruption charges.
In 2017, he was accused of money laundering and was handed a three-year suspended sentence in France. The court also ordered the seizure of his assets in France, estimated to be worth $116 million at the time.
In 2011, a petition requesting the confiscation of Obiang’s $70 million worth of assets in the U.S. was dismissed but Obiang agreed to forfeit some funds and assets including a fancy Malibu home, a Ferrari, and portions of his Michael Jackson’s memorabilia collection.
In 2016, the government of Switzerland seized a number of Obiang’s luxurious vehicles and a yacht estimated to be worth $100 million.
Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s poorest nation and has Africa’s longest-serving president estimated to be worth $200m.