The U.S. government is moving to seize more than $70 million in assets from the son of Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo including one sparkling prize: Michael Jackson's iconic white crystal-encrusted glove.
The glove, from the late pop superstar's "Bad Tour", is among almost $2 million in Michael Jackson memorabilia the DOJ announced today it planned to take from Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue. The younger Obiang is accused by the DOJ in the civil forfeiture action of using his position as a government minister to amass a fortune through foreign corruption and money laundering. In addition to the Jackson fanboy treasure trove, the DOJ is also targeting Nguema's Malibu mansion and other luxury items including a 2011 Ferrari GTO and Gulfstream private jet.
"The complaints announced today allege that, on a modest government salary, Minister Nguema amassed wealth of over $100 million," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement. "While his people struggled, he lived the high life... Alleging that these extravagant items are the proceeds of foreign official corruption, the Department of Justice is seeking to seize them through coordinated forfeiture actions."
In the statement, the DOJ says Nguema and a small group of confederates were virtually the sole beneficiaries of "the extraction and sale of that country's natural resources" -- resources that by law belong to the people of Equatorial Guinea.
The action against Nguema is the latest in the DOJ's relatively new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder July 2010 in Uganda, which is "aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended -- and proper -- use: for the people of our nations."
Nguema has been in the U.S. government's sights for some time. In 2004 the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations named Nguema in a report that accused a U.S. bank of "turning a blind eye" to evidence the bank was handling proceeds of foreign corruption.
In 2010, another Senate investigative report, which mentioned Nguema's then-girlfriend rapper Eve Jeffers, accused U.S. lawyers and real estate agents of helping Nguema set up a handful of shell companies to launder money through the U.S. financial system.
Officials at the Equatorial Guinea embassy in the U.S. did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this report.