, PARIS, Mar 28 – French magistrates probing alleged graft by African leaders have requested an arrest warrant for the son of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.
The request was made in early March and the prosecutor’s response is not known, the source added. The government in Malabo recently rejected a request for French magistrates to interview the son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.
French judges Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman 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 (TI), an anti-corruption campaign group which alleges the leaders and their relatives spent state funds from their countries on lavish purchases in France.
TI alleges Obiang owned more than four million euros worth of vehicles in France, while altogether the three leaders had accumulated French assets worth 160 million euros ($210 million).
Obiang has accused TI of running a campaign of disinformation, and criticised rich nations for a “savage exploitation” of his country’s natural resources.
Police in February searched an Obiang residence in an upmarket Paris district, removing vanloads of possessions.
Obiang’s son is agriculture minister and deputy head of mission to UNESCO, which is based in Paris. As part of that role he has diplomatic immunity.
In September last year, 11 of the family’s luxury cars were seized in Paris as part of the probe.
Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron grip since seizing power in a 1979 coup d’etat, making him the continent’s longest-serving head of state.
His country is sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest oil exporter but its people live in grinding poverty.
The appointment to UNESCO was announced on the same day that Human Rights Watch urged United States authorities to move quickly to probe his alleged corruption and money-laundering.
The New York-based rights group cited a US Justice Department claim on more than $70 million of his assets, including a mansion, jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia such as a “crystal-covered ‘Bad Tour’ glove”.