Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup

A Taste for Haute Couture

Those who have investigated Obiang say he does not bother skimming from the top for his graft. He drags his ladle deep, emptying the pot.

For example, Equatorial Guinea was paid $130 million in oil royalties in 1998, according to the IMF. Yet Obiang's administration claimed it was paid about one-quarter of that, $34 million. In more recent years, oil revenues have increased tenfold or more from the 1998 figures. Still, precious little trickles down to the nation's impoverished citizens, who have an average life expectancy of 54.

Rue Faubourg Saint Honoré, Paris
Rue Faubourg Saint Honoré, Paris

Where do the missing millions go?

As much as $700 million has gone to a once-respected Washington, D.C., bank, some of it deposited directly by American oil companies into Obiang's accounts, then transferred to secret offshore accounts.

European newspapers reported the president and his family frequently embark on frenzied no-limit shopping sprees at Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris, home of some of the world's most expensive couturiers and antique dealers.

The family also spends its money on U.S. real estate. President Obiang has two homes in suburban Washington, D.C., one valued at $2.5 million and the other at $1.3 million, according to the Washington Post. President Obiang's son, Teodorin, who attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., maintains a $6.9 million mansion in Los Angeles.

Teodorin flits about Paris in a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini and once made an $11 million offer on a New York condo owned by Adnan Khashoggi but was rejected by the building's board, according to the Nation magazine. An editor of an energy newsletter called Obiang's son "the closest thing there is to an African oil sheik."

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