Sunday, February 27, 2011

Global Witness: Son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator plans $380M superyacht

Via Global Witness | 28th February 2011

Global Witness has learned that Teodorin Obiang, the notorious son of Equatorial Guinea's long-ruling dictator, commissioned plans to build a superyacht worth $380 million - almost three times more than his energy-rich country spends annually on health and education programs combined [1]. This news comes amid an increasingly heated debate about how Middle Eastern dictators and their family members have enjoyed luxury lifestyles, as well as stashing their assets in foreign countries.

The yacht Pelorus at inlet to StockholmImage via Wikipedia
Roman Abramovich's Pelorus, understood to be
the blueprint for the planned Obiang yacht
Teodorin (full name Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue) asked Germany's Kusch Yachts to draw up a basic design for the secret project, which is codenamed "Zen." Last year, Global Witness revealed details from a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Teodorin which mentioned plans to build a yacht. After discovering that it was to be built at Kusch's shipyard in northern Germany, a Global Witness investigator visited the company and obtained key details about the project, confirming the identity of the client, and the yacht's price tag. The vessel's basic design was completed by Kusch in December 2009 for 250,000 Euros ($342,000) with an original delivery date set for late 2012. However, construction has not yet started.

The Obiang regime has a long track record of looting money that belongs in Equatorial Guinea's treasury. Global Witness has previously revealed Teodorin's profligate lifestyle in the US and elsewhere with a $35 million dollar Malibu mansion, a fleet of luxury cars and a private jet, while earning a ministerial salary of $6,799 per month [2]. It would take him some 4,600 years to pay for Project Zen on his reported official salary.

"Evidence points to corruption by Teodorin on a scale that would not be possible or attractive if countries like Germany and the U.S. were not safe havens, in terms of free passage for him and for his questionable private wealth," said Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns at Global Witness. "$380m is a staggering sum - that a President's son from such a poor country has ordered this yacht is outrageous extravagance on his part."

Teodorin's father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, took power in 1979 following a bloody coup and presides over a repressive government almost entirely dependent on energy revenues generated by ExxonMobil, Marathon and other multinational giants and has one of the worst human rights reputations in the world [3]. Obiang came eighth on a 2006 list by Forbes of the world's richest leaders with a fortune estimated at $600 million, whilst the majority of Equatorial Guinea's people live in poverty [4]. Incredibly, since oil was discovered in the mid-1990s, poverty levels have actually worsened. Equatorial Guinea enjoys a per capita income of about $37,900, one of the highest in the world. Yet 77 percent of the population falls below the poverty line, 35 percent die before the age of 40, and 58 percent lack access to safe water [5].
Kusch employees who spoke with Global Witness' undercover investigator said that Teodorin's yacht will be 118.5 meters (387 feet), housing a cinema, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a $1.3 million security system complete with floor motion sensors, photoelectric barriers and fingerprint door openers. Teodorin reportedly met a representative of Kusch at a hotel in Switzerland to discuss the design.

Its total contract price is approximately 288 million Euros, or $380 million at current exchange rates. This would make it the world's second most expensive yacht, behind Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's $1.2billion Eclipse [9].
Active links added above.  Read the whole thing here.

And the African Union just elected big daddy to be its president? Wow! Just big wow! And you're wondering why AU has nothing but toothless condemnation for one of its former presidents?

Anyway, know what I'm thinking?  Perhaps the company contracted to build the superyacht might demand a larger down payment, security or whatever insurance you get for cases like this--just in case. Given the track record of dictators getting kicked out in a matter of days ... weeks ... 2012 sounds like a lifetime. 

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