Teodorin Obiang Supercars Auctioned in Switzerland

On September 29, an auction in Cheserex, Switzerland sold 25 “supercars” that had been confiscated from Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodorin Obiang.  The origin of this auction was a criminal investigation that the Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office had opened in October 2016 against Obiang and two others for money laundering and unfaithful management of public interests.  In the fall of 2016, Swiss authorities seized 25 exotic cars belonging to Obiang that were located in Switzerland, and in December 2016, Dutch authorities, at Swiss authorities’ request, seized a yacht belonging to Obiang.

In February 2019, the Geneva Public Prosecutor announced that the 25 vehicles would be confiscated and sold and the net proceeds would be dedicated to a program of a social character to be conducted in Equatorial Guinea for the benefit of its people, on the basis of an agreement to be negotiated by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.  In addition, the seizure of Obiang’s yacht was lifted and the Equatorial Guinea government agreed to pay the State of Geneva CHF 1.3 million for “procedural costs” associated with the investigation.

The auction reportedly included a “rare and remarkable” 2014 Lamborghini Veneno, which was sold for $8.3 million (a world record-setting price for a Lamborghini sold at auction); an Aston Martin One-77 Coupe, which was sold for $1.5 million; and other exotic cars that included Ferraris, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces.  In total, the sales generated approximately $27 million or CHF 26 million.

Note: Now that the auction has taken place, the critical question remains whether the Swiss government can craft an agreement that will ensure that the auction proceeds are not diverted to the pockets of the ruling Obiang family.  The odds of doing so are vanishingly small, given the country’s low ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index and President Teodoro Obiang’s unrelenting grip on power.

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