AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea has asked the International Court of Justice to rule that France should drop an investigation of its president and his son, cancel an arrest warrant against the son and return seized property, according to a court statement.
Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president as well as its Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and recently named its second vice president, is wanted on money-laundering charges in France and the United States.
“Equatorial Guinea asserts that those (France‘s) procedural actions violate the principles of equality between states, non-intervention, sovereignty and respect for immunity from criminal jurisdiction,” the Hague-based ICJ said in a statement on Wednesday.
The ICJ has ruled in the past that foreign ministers enjoy immunity from foreign courts, which could also apply to presidents. This point of law is unlikely to be tested, however, because France is under no obligation to accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the matter.
French judges issued an arrest warrant for the president’s son, also known as Teodorin, earlier this year on allegations he had bought real estate in France with public money embezzled from Equatorial Guinea.
He has denied wrongdoing and said his wealth, which has allowed him to purchase luxury real estate in Paris and Malibu, a private jet and a stable of exotic sports cars, was amassed legitimately through successful business dealings.
U.S. prosecutors have said the president’s son spent over $100 million (61.9 million pounds) to support a playboy lifestyle in Paris and Malibu in the decade to 2011, including buying Bugati and Maserati cars, a Gulfstream jet and a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia - on a monthly ministerial salary of $6,799.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is Africa’s longest-serving leader after 33 years in power.
Teodorin’s promotion to second vice president was probably a move to prepare him to inherit the presidency, according to analysts and human rights groups. But one analyst said the title might have been intended to protect him from the French courts.
The majority of the west African country’s population lives in poverty despite its forestry wealth and its ranking as the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Human rights groups accuse its authorities of abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt; editing by Jane Baird