The UK Government has slapped sanctions on an African politician who spent almost £200,000 on Michael Jackson’s famous jewelled glove while a third of citizens in his country do not have access to basic sanitation.
Teodoro Obiang Mangue, vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, is one of five political figures and businessmen to be hit with asset freezes and a travel ban under the UK’s anti-corruption scheme.
The Foreign Office believes Mr Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s current president, has channelled millions in state funds into his own personal bank accounts.
Investigations and media reports show that he has spent over 500 million US dollars (£363.2 million) since he was appointed a government minister in 1998, and counts a 100 million US dollars (£72.6 million) mansion in Paris in his property portfolio, the Foreign Office said.
Mr Obiang’s other purchases include a 38 million US dollars private jet (£27.6 million), a luxury yacht and a fleet of supercars including Ferraris, Bentleys and Aston Martins.
He also has a valuable collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, featuring the famous crystal-studded glove from the artist’s Bad tour, which he bought for 275,000 US dollars (£200,000).
As well as misappropriating state funds, he is also involved in corrupt contracting arrangements and soliciting bribes to fund his lifestyle, the Foreign Office said.
Also hit with sanctions was Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei for billing the Zimbabwe Treasury at 10 times the value of contracts through his company Sakunda Holdings.
Mr Tagwirei’s actions accelerated the deflation of Zimbabwe’s currency and increased the price of essentials such as food for Zimbabwean citizens, according to the UK Government.
Elsewhere, Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan, former governor of Nineveh province, Iraq, has been sanctioned for misappropriating public funds intended to help rebuild the country and provide support for civilians.
He also improperly awarded contacts, the Foreign Office said, and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Iraq for corruption offences, including wasting around £2.5 million on non-existent “public works”.
Two Latin American businessmen, Alex Nain Saab Moran and Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas, are also included for exploiting two programmes set up to supply poor Venezuelans with affordable food and housing.
The pair benefitted from improperly awarded contracts, the UK Government said, where the goods and housing was delivered at highly inflated prices, causing more misery to poverty-stricken citizens.
The sanctions mean the five men will no longer be able to channel money through UK banks or enter the country.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The action we have taken today targets individuals who have lined their own pockets at the expense of their citizens.
“The UK is committed to fighting the blight of corruption and holding those responsible for its corrosive effect to account.”
He added: “Corruption drains the wealth of poorer nations, keeps their people trapped in poverty and poisons the well of democracy.”
The five men are the second group to be hit with restrictions since the UK launched its global anti-corruption sanctions regime in April.
At the time of its launch, 22 individuals in serious corruption cases in Russia, South Africa, South Sudan and Latin America were sanctioned.
More than 2% of global GDP is lost to corruption every year, according to Foreign Office data.
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