Equatorial Guinea sues France in UN tribunal over Paris mansion

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Equatorial Guinea has filed a lawsuit against France at the International Court of Justice accusing Paris of “embezzlement of public funds,” the court said Friday. This is the last stage of a long legal tussle centered on a mansion located on an expensive avenue in the French capital.

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 longtime president for money laundering and embezzlement of millions of dollars. audience. The French court sentenced him to a three-year suspended prison sentence, a fine of 30 million euros and ordered the seizure of assets in France worth tens of millions of euros. This included the mansion on Avenue Foch, which France is now considering selling.

The International Court of Justice, based in The Hague, has said that Equatorial Guinea claims to have made requests, on the basis of a United Nations anti-corruption convention, “to recover certain assets corresponding to property confiscated by France ” to which the French government did not respond. Among the assets requested is the mansion on Avenue Foch. The African country filed a complaint against France on Thursday.

Equatorial Guinea argues that by “ignoring” the request, France “violated its obligations under the Convention”, the court said.

The African nation asks the court to declare that France violates the UN convention and to order France to “return to Equatorial Guinea all the property subject to a request for recovery by Equatorial Guinea” .

She also asks the court to immediately prohibit the sale of the mansion located on the wide avenue leading to the Arc de Triomphe.

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

This is not the first time that the mansion has been the subject of a case before the highest court of the United Nations. In December 2020, the world court ruled that the property had never been a diplomatic outpost, rejecting Equatorial Guinea’s argument that it served as the country’s embassy and that France was therefore prevented from seizing it. under a treaty governing diplomatic relations between the countries.

Obiang has been 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 life involving luxury and sports cars, designer clothes, high-value works of art, and high-end real estate.

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

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