- Title: France tries Equatorial Guinea leader's son in absentia in corruption case
- Date: 2nd January 2017
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (JANUARY 2, 2017) (REUTERS) PARIS COURT OF JUSTICE BUILDING MEMBERS OF AN EQUATORIAL GUINEAN ASSOCIATION STANDING OUTSIDE COURTROOM VARIOUS OF HALL OUTSIDE COURTROOM EQUATORIAL GUINEA VICE PRESENT TEODORIN OBIANG'S LAWYER, EMMANUEL MARSIGNY, BEING INTERVIEWED (SOUNDBITE) (French) TEODORIN OBIANG'S LAWYER, EMMANUEL MARSIGNY, SAYING: "Mr. Nguema (Teodorin Obiang) is asking for a postponement of this trial. It is not a delaying tactic. It is just because he was given very few days to prepare his defence. He was not properly summoned before this criminal court. And like everyone, he is not seeking for more rights, but not less either. He should be able to prepare for his trial in reasonable conditions. I bring to mind that the case covers a period lasting from 1997 to 2011, so 14 years. He is accused of a lot of facts, and he needs to be prepared, as normally the case. Over the course of 20 years of my professional career, I've never seen a hearing done this way, this is just what we are going to ask to court. It seems so obvious to me, that I think this request should be noted and accepted immediately by the court." NGO TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL'S LAWYER WILLIAM BOURDON GETTING OUT OF COURTROOM (SOUNDBITE) (French) TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL'S LAWYER WILLIAM BOURDON SAYING: "It is happening as we expected, that is to say, this tactic that has been the same for many years, which is to spit on justice, to spit on judges' authorities, to spit on civil parties, and finally to get tied up in knots in an utterly dizzying manner. He will see what the court will say. But even if the judges would authorise lawyers of the accused to pursue in their vain attempt to delay or to ruin the procedure -- we, on the side of the civil party, not to be overly confident, we must remain vigilant, we remain calm and quiet." POLICEMEN STANDING OUTSIDE COURTROOM VARIOUS OF BOURDON STANDING OUTSIDE COURTROOM LAWYER GETTING OUT OF COURTROOM MARSIGNY INSIDE COURTROOM, SEEN FROM GLASS OPENING ON DOOR EXTERIOR OF PARIS COURT OF JUSTICE
- Embargoed: 17th January 2017 16:58
- Keywords: Corruption trial court Teodorin Obiang Teodoro Obiang
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE / NEW YORK, USA / THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS / MALABO, EQUATORIAL GUINEA
- City: PARIS, FRANCE / NEW YORK, USA / THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS / MALABO, EQUATORIAL GUINEA
- Country: France
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Judicial Process/Court Cases/Court Decisions
- Reuters ID: LVA0015XE0UH3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The son of Equatorial Guinea's president was put on trial in his absence on Monday (January 2) in France, accused of buying palatial Parisian properties and exotic cars with money plundered from his native country, a small oil-rich state on Africa's west coast.
Teodorin Obiang, eldest son of President Teodoro Obiang and a vice-president himself, stands formally accused of laundering embezzled public funds - charges he denies but which expose him to a sentence of 10 years in jail and huge fines if convicted.
The case is the first of several to reach court in a broader judicial investigation into allegations of illicit acquisitions in France by long-time leaders and family relatives in several African countries including Gabon and Congo Republic.
Obiang stayed away but his lawyer requested that the trial be suspended on the grounds that his client had not been given enough time to properly prepare his defence in a complex case, having been summoned to trial just three weeks ago.
"It is not a delaying tactic. It is just because he was given very few days to prepare his defence. He was not properly summoned before this criminal court. And like everyone, he is not seeking for more rights, but not less either," Emmanuel Marsigny, his lawyer in Paris, told Reuters.
The problem was the hurried summons to trial and not the substance of the case, he said.
For the civil party, the request was a tactic to " delay or to ruin the procedure", as William Bourdon, lawyer of NGO Transparency International said.
Among the acquisitions at the centre of the trial is a large property bought for 25 million Euros in 2005 on Paris's upmarket Avenue Foch, with gymnasium, hammam steam room, hair-dressing studio and a discotheque with cinema screen.
In addition to luxury clothing and jewels, prosecutors say Obiang, 48, built up an exceptional collection of costly cars, which along with clothes, jewels and real estate took the value of all his assets to around 100 million euros ($105 million).
Obiang says his purchases were above-board.
But prosecutors say the assets do not tally with a salary at the time of a man who, according to a parallel U.S. inquiry, earned $80,000 a year as farming and forestry minister, a post that obliged him to refrain from other business dealings.
The court said when it opened proceedings that it would decide on Wednesday (January 4) whether the trial slated to end by mid-January would go ahead as planned or be suspended in response to the request from his lawyer.
Last December, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague said it lacked jurisdiction to grant an interim request by Equatorial Guinea to halt France's case against Obiang.
Judges at the ICJ did however approve Equatorial Guinea's request to have a building it says is part of its diplomatic mission in Paris be given diplomatic immunity. This would mean the building cannot be searched again by French authorities.
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