French Court of Appeals Affirms Conviction, Imposes €30 Million Fine on Equatorial Guinea Vice President Obiang

On February 10, the Cour d’Appel (Court of Appeal) of Paris upheld a three-year suspended sentence against Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodorin Obiang for his 2017 conviction for embezzlement, money laundering, corruption, and abuse of trust.  At trial, the Paris court, which convicted Obiang in absentia, had suspended both Obiang’s sentence and a €30 million fine.  Although Obiang challenged his conviction, the Cour d’Appel effectively increased his sentence by removing the suspension of the fine.

The Cour d’Appel also upheld the trial court’s order for confiscation of Obiang’s criminally derived assets.  One of the key assets whose legal status is still in dispute, however, is Obiang’s six-story €107 million mansion on Avenue Foch in Paris.  Obiang has maintained that the mansion, which French authorities seized in 2012, is a diplomatic mission that cannot be confiscated.  Consistent with that position, Obiang has independently appealed the mansion’s seizure to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  The International Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing on that matter for the week of February 17.

Note:  Obiang undoubtedly will continue to pursue the appeal of his conviction to the Cour de Cassation, the highest court in France for reviewing criminal cases.  Even so, this latest phase of legal proceedings against Obiang should be considered a victory not only for French prosecutors, who have pursued Obiang’s wealth since 2011, but for the non-governmental organizations Transparency International France and Sherpa, which initiated the complaint against Obiang.

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