O texto é de 2012. Mas ganha toda uma nova relevância com a prespectiva da adesão da Guiné Equatorial à CPLP. Na época, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, filho de Teodoro Obiang Nguema, era apenas ministro da agricultura do país governado pelo pai. Hoje é vice-primeiro-ministro para evitar ser preso numa viagem ao estrangeiro. Mas a revista Foreign Policy já escrevia abundantemente sobre a sua relação com coelhinas da playboy, malas de dinheiro, carros de dois milhões de dólares e uma mansão gigante em Hollywood – e sobre a investigação que decorria nos Estados Unidos aos seus bens.
By Ken Silverstein,
The owner of the estate at 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road, which sits high above Malibu, California, calls himself a prince, and he certainly lives like one. A long, tree-lined driveway runs from the estate’s main gate past a motor court with fountains and down to a 15,000-square-foot mansion with eight bathrooms and an equal number of fireplaces. The grounds overlook the Pacific Ocean, complete with swimming pool, tennis court, four-hole golf course, and Hollywood stars Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, and Kelsey Grammer for neighbors.
With his short, stocky build, slicked-back hair, and Coke-bottle glasses, the prince hardly presents an image of royal elegance. But his wardrobe was picked from the racks of Versace, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana, and he spared no expense on himself, from the $30 million in cash he paid for the estate to what Senate investigators later reported were vast sums for household furnishings: $59,850 for rugs, $58,000 for a home theater, even $1,734.17 for a pair of wine glasses. When he arrived back home — usually in the back seat of a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce or one of his other several dozen cars — his employees were instructed to stand in a receiving line to greet the prince. And then they lined up to do the same when he left.
The prince, though, was a phony, a descendant of rulers but not of royals. His full name is Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue — Teodorin to friends — and he is the son of the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, a country about the size of Maryland on the western coast of Africa. A postage stamp of a country with a population of a mere 650,000 souls, Equatorial Guinea would be of little international consequence if it didn’t have one thing: oil, and plenty of it. The country is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer of oil after Nigeria and Angola, pumping around 346,000 barrels per day, and is both a major supplier to and reliable supporter of the United States. Over the past 15 years, ExxonMobil, Hess Corp., and other American firms have collectively invested several billion dollars in Equatorial Guinea, which exports more of its crude to the U.S. market than any other country.
Energy revenues have flowed into the pockets of the country’s elite, but virtually none has trickled down to the poor majority; since the oil boom began, the country has rocketed to one of the world’s highest per capita incomes — and one of its lowest standards of living. Nearly four-fifths of its people live in abject poverty; child mortality has increased to the point that today some 15 percent of Equatorial Guinea’s children die before reaching age 5, making it one of the deadliest places on the planet to be young.
Teodorin’s 68-year-old father, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, seized power in a 1979 coup and has made apparent his intent to hand over power to a chosen successor. Obiang has sired an unknown number of children with multiple women, but 41-year-old Teodorin is his clear favorite and is being groomed to take over. That’s a scary prospect both for the long-suffering citizens of his country and for U.S. foreign policy. As a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with Teodorin put it to me, “He’s an unstable, reckless idiot.”
He’s also, according to thousands of pages of documents I’ve reviewed from multiple federal and congressional investigations of the Obiangs over the last decade, fantastically corrupt. As the minister of agriculture and forestry in his father’s government, Teodorin holds sway over the country’s second-largest industry. Investigators have documented how he has run his ministry like a business, operating several logging companies alongside the agency meant to regulate them. Documents from a secret joint investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency quote sources alleging that Teodorin supplemented his modest ministerial salary of $5,000 per month with a “large ‘revolutionary tax’ on timber” that he ordered international logging firms to pay “in cash or through checks” to a forestry company he owned. Investigators suspect a large chunk of his assets was derived from “extortion, theft of public funds, or other corrupt conduct,” stated a 2007 Justice report detailing the probe, which I first reported on for the Harper’s website in 2009. Teodorin has not only assembled a vast fortune, he’s routed much of it into the United States; a detailed report last year by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that he used shell companies to evade money-laundering laws and funnel more than $100 million into the United States.
All those millions purchased Teodorin a lavish and debauched lifestyle, according to allegations in a series of previously unreported civil lawsuits filed against him by a dozen former employees at the Malibu estate. They claim they were cheated out of salaries, overtime wages, and work-related expenses for items ranging from gasoline to toilet paper, while being forced to support a tawdry setup straight out of the movie The Hangover: There were drug “binges,” as one ICE document claimed, escort service girls, Playboy bunnies, and even a tiger. “I never witnessed him perform anything that looked like work,” reads a legal filing on behalf of Dragan Deletic, one of Teodorin’s former drivers. “His days consisted entirely of sleeping, shopping and partying.” (Without responding to specifics, a Los Angeles lawyer for Teodorin, Kevin Fisher, dismissed the charges as “salacious” and “extreme,” adding, “The allegations have not been verified and the people making them are not subject to perjury, so I don’t give a great deal of credence to them.”)
After years of wrangling, most of the cases have now been settled, and the employees signed agreements that prevent them from speaking about Teodorin. But prior to that I interviewed several plaintiffs and their attorney, Jim McDermott, and read the case filings. I also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. and foreign investigations that involve Teodorin. They are incredibly damning.
The larger issue raised by all this is why the U.S. government — after going to the effort to produce this mound of information pointing to Teodorin’s flagrant corruption and apparent misuse of the U.S. banking system — has been unwilling to do anything about it. “I’m surprised that he’s still allowed in the country based on all of the information contained in the Senate report and uncovered by other investigators and reporters,” said Linda Candler, a former Justice Department prosecutor who specialized in international criminal investigations. Indeed, legal experts say that Teodorin shouldn’t have been allowed to enter the United States since 2004, when President George W. Bush issued Proclamation 7750, which bars corrupt foreign officials from receiving U.S. visas. “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves,” said Bush’s successor Barack Obama, whose administration pledged to “vigorously” enforce 7750. “We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t.”
And yet no formal action against Teodorin has been taken, despite an investigation whose stated goal, according to one of the Justice Department documents, was to shut down the flow of money into the United States “obtained through kleptocracy” by the Obiangs. Why? U.S. officials declined to discuss the ongoing cases on the record or speak harshly about Equatorial Guinea; it certainly appears to be the familiar story of a U.S. government unwilling to offend an important oil partner — the same coddling that has produced such stellar results in the past with Saudi Arabia and other energy-rich, democracy-poor Middle East allies. The Obama administration last year did help block UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, from accepting $3 million from Obiang to endow a science prize in his name — but only after a public outcry raised by media reports calling attention to a prize the United States had previously been willing to overlook. Otherwise the administration has said little publicly about Equatorial Guinea’s awful record of corruption and human rights violations, and it has failed to impose sanctions against Teodorin or the state he is set to inherit. As of late 2010, years after the Justice Department probe began, investigators were still seeking to identify expert witnesses who could tell them about the early days of the Obiang regime.