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The senate is holding hearings and issuing a report today that shows how a number of corrupt African officials — and their American enablers — used the U.S. banking systems to launder vast amounts of money. A good chunk of the report builds on revelations made here last November about Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
Two American attorneys set up shell accounts for Obiang to help him buy a $30 million home in Malibu and a $38.5 million jet. All told, Obiang moved more than $110 million into the U.S. from 2004 to 2008. One of the shell companies was called Sweet Pink, named after the rapper Eve Jeffers, who was then Obiang’s girlfriend and the president of Sweet Pink. (Eve later dumped Obiang, reportedly after hearing rumors that his dictator father was a cannibal who ate his political opponents. The senate report neither confirms nor denies that Obiang Sr. is a flesh eater.)
One of Obiang’s helpers was attorney Michael Jay Berger, who will be testifying before the senate today. From the report:
In addition to this cash compensation, as a result of his relationship with Mr. Obiang, Mr.
Berger was invited to exclusive social events and venues in Southern California. After a party called the “Nguema Summer Bash” on September 14, 2007, for example, Mr. Berger sent the following email to Mr. Obiang:
“Thank you very much for inviting me to your party and for being so nice to me at the
party. I appreciate the super VIP treatment that you gave me…The food was
great, the drinks were better than great, the house, the view, the DJ, the white tiger were
all SO COOL! Best of all were the people that I met there because of you.”
Mr. Obiang also arranged for Mr. Berger to be invited to the 2007 “Kandy Halloween
Bash” at the Playboy Mansion. After the party, Mr. Berger wrote:
Thank you very much for inviting me to the Kandy Halloween party @ The Playboy
Mansion and getting me the VIP treatment. I had an awesome time. I met many
beautiful women, and I have the photos, e-mail addresses and phone numbers to prove it.
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, attended a press briefing on Tuesday. I asked him why Obiang was not on a list of corrupt foreign officials barred from the U.S., as is required by a presidential proclamation issued by George W. Bush and is supposedly enforced by the State Department. “That’s the right question,” Levin replied. ” We will press our report on the State Department.”
Other revelations from the report include:
Omar Bongo, the deceased former president of Gabon, used an American lobbyist named Jeffrey Birrell to buy armored vehicles (including a stretch H2 Hummer) and transport planes. Bongo’s daughter kept $1 million in shrink-wrapped bills in a safety deposit box at a New York bank
The arms dealer Pierre Falcone, currently in prison in France, had dozens of bank accounts with Bank of America.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”