After a three-year campaign, the Department of Justice is getting tens of millions in assets from the son of an African dictator accused of corruption, but not one of his most sought-after prizes: one of Michael Jackson’s crystal-encrusted “Bad Tour” gloves.
According to a settlement agreement announced Friday, the Justice Department has required Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo and the country’s Second Vice President, to relinquish a Malibu, Calif. mansion, a Ferrari, and several life-size statues of the late pop star, in total valued at $30 million. However, the dictator’s son may keep Jackson’s crystal glove, a jacket used during the “Thriller” tour, and a Gulfstream jet, as they remain outside the United States.
According to a Justice official, should the memorabilia reenter the U.S., it will be subject to seizure by the government. Also, Nguema Obiang must still compensate for the value of the items by paying $1 million to the U.S. government, to be used “for the benefit of the Equatorial Guinean people.”
Funds collected from the sale of the other assets will be deposited into a government account, then subsequently donated to a charity chosen by the government and Nguema Obiang or, lacking cooperation between the two, a three-member panel.
The DOJ originally took action against Nguema Obiang in 2011 as part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010. The initiative 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.”
“Through relentless embezzlement and extortion, Vice President Nguema Obiang shamelessly looted his government and shook down businesses in his country to support his lavish lifestyle, while many of his fellow citizens lived in extreme poverty,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in a press release Friday. “After raking in millions in bribes and kickbacks, Nguema Obiang embarked on a corruption-fueled spending spree in the United States.”
A 2010 Senate investigation alleged that a series of middle men -- including lawyers, real estate agents, and others – set up several shell companies in the U.S. Investigators believe Nguema Obiang funneled funds through those companies, allowing him to amass a fortune of over $300 million worth of assets.
Other gloves owned by the former King of Pop have gone for hundreds of thousands of dollars at various auctions, meaning Nguema Obiang will still hold on to a priceless piece of pop history despite his $1 million transfer of value.