The United States’ Kleptocracy initiative is aimed at holding foreign government officials to account and preventing them from using the U.S. as a haven for money looted from their own countries. Although solid wins are rare, tying up a corrupt foreign leader’s money in the courts is seen as a victory, writes Leslie Wayne for The New York Times.
Witnesses are often reluctant to testify against their own leader out of fear of imprisonment. Nor will the Justice Department get help from the victim country while the corrupt leaders are still in power. … The assets themselves are often hidden behind opaque shell corporations, and following the looted money can take years of work.
It’s hard to imagine a public official with more toys than Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who spent $300 million on Ferraris, a Gulfstream jet, a California mansion and even Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” jacket. The buying spree is all the more remarkable since this scion of the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea, one of Africa’s smallest countries, bought all this while on an official salary of $100,000 a year.
But legal action by the Justice Department has brought an end to Mr. Obiang’s spendthrift ways. His $30 million Malibu estate is on the market, as are his luxury cars and six life-size Jackson statues. Proceeds from these sales are earmarked for citizens of Equatorial Guinea, who prosecutors claim are victims of Mr. Obiang’s “relentless embezzlement and extortion.”