[Washington Babylon ]Teodoro Nguema Obiang: Part Imelda Marcos, part Cruella de Ville | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Teodoro Nguema Obiang: Part Imelda Marcos, part Cruella de Ville


As recently reported here, the U.S. government has been investigating Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, for money laundering and corruption. Obiang, who earns about $5,000 per month as Minister of Forestry (AKA, the Minister of Chopping Down Trees), was found to have laundered at least $75 million into the United States the past few years. That comes to nearly twice the amount allocated by Equatorial Guinea for its yearly national education budget.

With that money, Teodorin bought a private jet and a $35 million estate in Malibu, which boasts a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a four-hole golf course. Government documents also show that he owned millions of dollars worth of sports cars and at least two luxury boats. “[I]t is suspected that a large portion of Teodoro Nguema OBIANG’s assets have originated from extortion, theft of public funds, or other corrupt conduct,” said a Justice Department document.

In addition to being a crook, Obiang also turns out to be a terrible employer. I recently obtained papers from a court judgment against Obiang, who was ordered to pay his former housekeeper in Malibu, Lily Panayotti, roughly $62,000 in unpaid wages, penalties, and lawyer’s fees. Panayotti’s complaint says her work included cleaning his 14,000 square foot compound, which had four “houses” on the property. This included “cleaning and polishing the Property’s enormous collection of silver and crystal” and shuttling Obiang’s vast amount of luggage (he “traveled with hundreds of pairs of shoes”) to and from the airport.

Panayotti’s deposition states:

I had to be in attendance at all times while Mr. Obiang was present. We could not leave the property to eat lunch, nor could we leave the property until he woke up each day. Sometimes he would not wake up until 7, 8, 0r 9 o’clock in the evening. When this happened, even though it was long after I had already been on the Property for approximately 12 hours, i had then to clean his room, closet, bathroom and straighten all of his clothes and anything else that I was ordered to do. This routinely required me to work at the Property until 11:00 or 12:00….

I felt threatened at work because of the way that the Defendants treated employees. The Defendants did not allow me to eat the same food that other guests and even some workers got to eat. While at work, I was fed beans, corn, and a mixture of potatoes with sausage..I was not permitted to eat other food…

As with food “restrictions,” I could only use one of the approximately sixteen bathrooms on the Property. This was very stressful, sometimes painful, and required me to constantly run back and forth across the Property to the location of “my” bathroom. I felt it was nearly impossible to take care of the Defendants’ strict needs and demands and take care of unavoidable personal necessities….

Mr. Obiang had very strict preferences about how he was treated when he arrived, while he was at the Property and how he was treated when he was leaving. When Mr. Obiang would arrive at the Property, all of the workers, including myself, were required to stand at attention in a line waiting for him. Likewise, we had to greet him and line up when he left.. And we had to constantly wait for him when he was asleep and be ready at a moment’s notice when he awoke.

The U.S. government continues to allow Obiang into the country, even though he should clearly be barred under a proclamation issued by George W. Bush which bars entry to corrupt foreign officials. If the government can’t muster the political will to do that — U.S. oil companies have billions invested in Equatorial Guinea — it should at least block him as a means of keeping him from ripping off American workers.

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