17 February 2012

Equatorial Guinea: Paris Police Seize Luxury Goods Worth Millions From Obiang Mansion

French police have hauled away two lorry-loads of precious objects from the luxurious Paris mansion of Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, and on Friday were unsure if they would finish by evening after four days work.

The six-storey building on the French capital's swish avenue Foch, just off the Champs Elysées, has 101 rooms, each one containing "hundreds of treasures", reports RFI's Franck Alexandre.

The building is worth more than 500 million euros and its contents are worth at least 40 million euros, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Among the furniture wrapped, noted and taken to a secret storage place, is Louis XIV desk whose value is estimated at 1.5 million euros.

Many of the antiques and objets d'art come from the collection of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his lover, Pierre Bergé. Teodorin Obiang spent 18 million euros at the auction of the collection in 2009.

Investigating magistrates Roger Le Loire and René Grouman ordered the raid as part of their inquiry into allegations that several African leaders have siphoned off embezzled public funds to France.

A document in their possession reportedly shows that another building bought by the Obiang family in France was paid for from an account opened by the Guinean treasury at the French central bank.

Shortly before the latest action, Teodorin Obiang was appointed to the Guinean representation at the UN's Paris-based cultural arm, Unesco, which allowed him diplomatic immunity.

His lawyers claimed that the raid was a violation of diplomatic norms.

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