The debate would go on for a long time whether this is a case of confronting corruption cum profligacy in Africa from outside or that of giving a dog a bad name so as to justify its hanging. Whichever direction the debate goes, many would agree it is a bad day for the image of Africa as the Swiss authorities are poised to sell off what the The Guardian in the UK calls supercars. And they are 25 of them seized from the son of an African leader, Teodorin Obiang Nguema, whose father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has spent over 30 years in power as president of Equatorial Guinea.
A report in the paper is saying the auctioning will rake in 18.5m Swiss francs ($18.7m) at the end of the day. The Guardian is quoting Philip Kantor from Bonhams, a British auctioneering company as telling the Agency France News Agency that “This is an exceptional sale, cars which he described as of very low mileage, meaning cars that have not run much in mileage.
Coming after African leaders such as Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari are posing the rip off of Africa by international financial crooks as the problem, this is bound to lead to more debate. Those who are counter-posing “How Africa Underdevelops Africa” to Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa have got an additional evidence, considering that Equatorial Guinea’s oil wealth which is enough to expel poverty from that country is now been totally captured and cornered by one person/family out of population of slightly over a million. Whether his heartlessness repudiates Rodney’s standpoint is an inconclusive theme in the study of the ‘African condition’.
Listing the cars up for sale today, if not already done with by now at a Geneva golf club, the paper came up with the followings: seven Ferraris, three Lamborghinis, five Bentleys, a Maserati and a McLaren. And it is saying the most expensive of them are a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, valued at between 4.8m and 5.7m euros ($5.2-6.2m) and a yellow Ferrari hybrid at 2.4-2.6m euros. The cars were confiscated by Swiss justice after the opening in 2016 of a financial wrongdoing case against Obiang, son and likely heir of Equatorial Guinea’s authoritarian president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled for 40 years. All will be sold with no reserve price.
Information available to The Guardian shows that the cars were confiscated last February after Swiss prosecutors opted to drop charges of financial wrongdoing against Teodorin Obiang Nguema and, instead, confiscate the luxury cars as part of the case. The paper further added how prosecutors can choose to drop charges in this category if defendants offer compensation “and restore a situation that is in conformity with the law”. It is allowed under the Swiss penal code but Equatorial Guinea is paying the hefty sum of 1.3m Swiss francs to the government in Geneva to cover the costs of the case.
That is the Government and poor people of Equatorial Guinea are bearing the cost of their Vice-President, Teodorin Obiang, whom The Guardian describes as having the reputation for a playboy lifestyle. Meanwhile, he is the Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea in charge of Defence and Security, meaning that he is virtually the Equatorial Guinea State although he has yet to be quoted as declaring that he is the state.
If The Guardian is to be believed, he has been “accused of spending more than 1,000 times his official annual salary on a six-storey mansion in a posh part of the French capital, a fleet of fast cars and artworks, among other assets”. For that, he was given a suspended fine of 30m euros. But that is in addition to a three-year suspended jail term upon his conviction for siphoning off public money to buy assets in France in October 2017 at a Paris court. But the list extends to the seizure of more than $16m in cash and luxury watches by the Brazilian police and customs officers from luggage of a delegation said to have been accompanying him on a private visit. That was this September and the story is credited to the Brazilian media, in particular, O Estado de Sao Paulo, the Brazilian daily The Guardian attributes diplomatic sources from Equatorial Guinea as saying the money was to pay for Obiang’s medical treatment in Sao Paulo while the watches said to be engraved with his initials were for the “personal use”.
This wonderful son of Africa is believed to be undergoing grooming for leadership by succeeding his father. The process has been described as a fast track one, including his promotion last October straight from the rank of a colonel directly to division general, bypassing the normal intermediary rank of brigade general and the next thing was him presiding over a cabinet meeting, his first time of doing so. The obvious question is what sort of leader he is likely to be if and when he finally mounts the saddle. And what would that say about the African continent?