Equatorial Guinea: VP Teodorin’s assets seized, again

By The Africa Report

Posted on Tuesday, 14 February 2023 17:57
File photo of a Ferrari Enzo owned by Equatorial Guinea VP Teodoro Obiang, seized during another court case in Switzerland. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A South African high court ordered the seizure of two homes and a massive yacht from Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodorin Obiang after South African businessman Daniel Janse van Rensburg successfully took him to court for unlawful detention and torture.

A superyacht was seized last week, while two large houses in Cape Town were taken by authorities two weeks ago. A Cape Town court had ordered the president’s son to pay R40m ($2.2m) in damages in 2021.

“In Equatorial Guinea, there is no rule of law,” Tuto Alcante, head of the US-based human rights group EG Justice tells The Africa Report, adding that this latest seizure of goods – Teodorin’s fourth – is not surprising.

Businesspeople who get in bed with this government, investing in Equatorial Guinea, have to know they are assuming a huge risk. This is their modus operandi,” he says.

Janse van Rensburg says he had been tasked to set up an airline in the oil-rich central African country run by Teodorin’s father Teodoro since 1979. Teodoro deposed his uncle in a bloody coup d’etat in 1979, ruling with an iron fist ever since. He won the latest election in November, grabbing 97% of the vote.

“Businesspeople invest in the country and the government eventually takes their assets and gets kicked out of the country,” says Alicante. Janse van Rensburg reportedly was tortured and illegally detained for 491 days in Black Beach prison in the Equatorial Guinean capital of Malabo.

Marburg virus looms

Equatorial Guinea also made headlines this week after reporting nine people had died in its western Kie Ntem province from the Marburg virus, a bloody haemmorhagic fever. The WHO reports 16 suspected cases with symptoms that include fever, bloody vomit and diarrhoea, with 4,000 people currently in quarantine. The often-fatal illness has a death rate of up to 88%.

The country is ill-equipped to deal with this outbreak because it is a highly corrupt government, says Alicante.

“It hasn’t invested in health and sanitation infrastructure. When we had an explosion, there was no healthcare to deal with this,” he says, referring to the 2021 blasts in Bata, which killed 107 people and wounded 700.

Poor top oil producer

Equatorial Guinea is among the world’s poorest countries, even though it is a top five African oil producer. Lack of investment in healthcare and education has created one of the biggest wealth gaps between the rich and the poor, who make up 70% of the 1.4 million people.

After winning his sixth election, the world’s longest-serving president is poised to hand over the reins to Vice President Teodorin.

The broader implication is that Teodorin is a person who hasn’t learned from his various court cases over the past 10 years as he revels in a kleptocratic regime, says Alicante.

“Teodorin continues to enjoy the same lavish lifestyle from which he has already been convicted in four different jurisdictions. Here is a person who has not learned from the past, and while the people remain destitute,” he adds.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options