By - Tobi Idowu
Africa’s postcolonial history is replete with chronic disillusionment and cynicism on the part of the masses. The cause of such mock enthusiasm has been the uncaring leaders, whom as soon as they received the baton of leadership from the much derided colonial lords became the worst caricature of those lords. It didn’t take much time before the high hope at the dawn of freedom and self governments virtually across African countries soured. Year in year out, African leaders have shown they are the greatest pilferers of their peoples’ commonwealth. The kind of abandonment with which they cart away the wealth of their nations cannot be matched elsewhere. More disturbingly they expend those wealth on the most needless and frivolous things. The example of ‘crown’ prince and heir apparent of Equatorial Guinea, Teodorin Obiang Nguema, will suffice!
Luxury cars – via Equatorial Guinea’s wealth – in market in Switzerland
One of the most astounding news stories that have come up in recent times is that of a collection of luxury cars seized from Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodorin Obiang Nguema, which was reported will be auctioned off in Switzerland. Those cars are estimated will rake in 18.5m Swiss francs ($18.7m). “This is an exceptional sale,” Philip Kantor, of British auctioneers Bonhams, told AFP. “It’s a private collection of supercars, with very low mileage.” One of the most “rare and remarkable” cars, a 2014 Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, was sold for $8.3m to an anonymous buyer, representing a new world record price for a Lamborghini sold at auction, Bonhams said. The hammer price for the 354km/h (220mph) car, introduced to celebrate Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary, was about 50% more than its pre-sale estimate. Also, an Aston Martin One-77 Coupe, described as an “absolute rocket ship” by the auction house, went for $1.5m. “Cars like this would be the jewel of any collection, but to have them all together is really quite extraordinary,” Lynnie Farrant, press officer for auctioneer Bonhams, told the BBC. The cars attracted a lot of interest from collectors across the world, most especially in Europe, Ms Farrant said.
It is reported that among the cars that went under the hammer at a Geneva golf club on Sunday are seven Ferraris, three Lamborghinis, five Bentleys, a Maserati and a McLaren. The most expensive amidst the lots are a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, valued at between 4.8m and 5.7m euros ($5.2-6.2m) and a yellow Ferrari hybrid at 2.4-2.6m euros. The total number of the cars which was sold off was twenty-five.
Why were they sold off?
The auction did not happen because Nguema got tired of his cars, as you might have guessed. The auction occurred on the strength of their confiscation by the Swiss government, who had seized them as part of an investigation into Teodorin Nguema Obiang.
In 2016, Swiss justice opened a case of financial impropriety against Obiang. But in February this year, Swiss prosecutors announced that they were dropping the charges but would be confiscating Obiang’s luxury cars as part of the case. Under the Swiss penal code, prosecutors can decide to drop charges in this category if defendants offer compensation “and restore a situation that is in conformity with the law.” As part of the deal, Equatorial Guinea has also agreed to give Geneva 1.3 million Swiss francs to cover the costs of the case. Obiang can afford to lose such luxury. In fact, a size chunk of his country’s wealth can be “dashed” away for his cause.
He is Equatorial Guinea’s heir apparent
Not only has he found enormous favour with his father, Teodoro Obiang – ruling for close to four decades – but he was installed as the vice president of the country in some kind of bizarre arrangement only permissible in the country. He is widely seen as the heir-apparent to his father, for this reason.
The 51 year old served as an adviser to his father and minister for agriculture, before being appointed vice-president in 2012, with responsibility for defence and security. It is reported that he is being fast-tracked to succeed his father. In October 2018, he was incredibly promoted from colonel directly to division general, skipping the normal intermediary rank of brigade general. A month after that, he would preside over a cabinet meeting, in his father’s stead, for the first time.
Meanwhile, the fact that in international media reports, Nguema has drawn criticism for his extravagant spending habits and playboy lifestyle, has no impacts, whatsoever, in his larger-than-life posturing and influence in his home country. Perhaps, he enjoys and desires such attention. New York Times once described him as “a rap music entrepreneur and bon vivant, fond of Lamborghinis and long trips to Hollywood and Rio de Janeiro”.
A raft of corruption baggage
In 2017, a French court handed Nguema Obiang a three-year suspended jail term for corruption, after convicting him for siphoning off public money to buy assets in France. He had been accused of spending more than 1,000 times his official annual salary on a six-storey mansion in a posh part of the French capital, a fleet of fast cars and artworks, among other assets. He was also given a suspended fine of 30m euros.
Also in September, Brazilian media reported that more than $16m in cash and luxury watches were seized by Brazilian police and customs officers from luggage of a delegation accompanying Obiang on a private visit. A Brazilian daily, O Estado de Sao Paulo, quoted a diplomatic source from Equatorial Guinea as saying the money was to pay for medical treatment Obiang was to undergo in Sao Paulo. The watches were, the paper reported, for the “personal use” of the president’s son and were engraved with his initials, the report said.
What is quite astonishing from all of Obiang’s profligate lifestyle is the ease with which he could forego his acquired wealth for his personal safety in foreign lands. It appears foreign countries know this fact as they have used it to let him give off his wealth, taken obviously from Equatorial Guinea’s commonwealth. Notably, in the present Swiss seizure of his wealth, prosecutors said they decided to close the inquiry into Mr Obiang as part of an arrangement to sell his cars to fund social programmes in his country.
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