Equatorial Guinea : The latest in the Obiang family’s war of succession

By Georges Dougueli

Posted on Monday, 22 February 2021 17:43
The President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, surrounded by his sons Gabriel (l.) and Teodorín © Photomontage: Ronald Zak/AP/SIPA; Ludovic Marin/AP/SIPA; Frank Franklin II/AP/SIPA

43-year-old Candido Nsue Okomo, the brother-in-law of the President of Equatorial Guinea, is suspected of money laundering and embezzlement in Spain. He is required to appear before a Spanish court on 9 March.

Exiled in Dubai, Candido Nsue Okomo is required to appear before Spanish judge Manuel García-Castellón, as a condition before the extradition request made by the Iberian justice system to the Emirati authorities can be lifted.

Madrid had previously issued international letters rogatory requesting an investigation. The magistrate rejected the request of the interested party, who had proposed holding a hearing by videoconference. Investigators suspect the brother of Equatorial Guinea’s first lady, Constancia Mangue Nsue Okomo, of being behind the recruitment of a former Spanish police commissioner, José Manuel Villarejo.

Details of the “investigation”

The former managing director of the national company GEPetrol allegedly paid Okomo €5.3m to monitor and gather compromising information on Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima –  minister of mines and hydrocarbons and the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his second wife – as part of a mission entitled “Project King.”

In a 24-page document written by Villarejo and confiscated by the Spanish police chief, to which we had access, the former commissioner details his “investigation.”

The document analyses Obiang Lima’s activities and reveals alleged financial arrangements, shell companies, relationships with Chinese banks and entrepreneurs, and accounts in tax havens and Switzerland. The same report also discloses his links to a campaign financed by oil groups to discredit his brother, vice president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue (aka “Teodorín”), and claim his father’s succession.

This gives credence to the rumour of an ongoing war of succession between the two rival branches of the presidential family. On one side, there is the first lady’s clan who actively supports her son Teodorin and on the other, that of Obiang Lima and the other part of the family which includes Armengol Ondo Nguema, the very influential younger brother of the president.

A “campaign of denigration”

The document examines Transparency France – the NGO that had taken action in the BMA (Biens mal acquis) lawsuit against Teodorín. It contains information about alleged links between its president Daniel Lebègue and Technip, an oil services provider working in Equatorial Guinea with Noble Energy – which reportedly signed a confidentiality contract with Obiang Lima.

Villarejo’s report claims that the companies that have business relations with the minister of mines and hydrocarbons are the same companies that finance press campaigns aimed at discrediting not only the head of state and Vice President Teodorín, but also the country.

Since the beginning of the BMA affair, Teodorín’s defence has in fact sought to attack Transparency France, in particular by questioning its financing.

Finally, the Spaniards are interested in finding out from where Nsue Okomo acquired the money he paid to Villarejo, even though he is suspected of having obtained it illegally. According to the judge, a Spanish businessman by the name of Francisco Menéndez Rubio, who called Candido Nsue Okomo his “boss”, made the connection with Villarejo.

Obiang Lima, whom we contacted, released the following statement: “My family and I are deeply saddened by the events in Spain and the campaign to denigrate bloggers, itself the result of the vicious campaign led by Mr. José Villarejo and his partners in their Project King report. This report describes the strategy used as part of a disinformation campaign targeted against me. The fake blogger attacks were a perfect execution of it. I firmly believe that the rule of law will prevail in this case and I hope that the Spanish authorities will get to the bottom of it.”

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