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 scion of the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea bought all this while on an official salary of $100,000 a year. But legal action by the US justice department has brought an end to 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. The department has led an effort to recover assets that it says were stolen by foreign officials — dictators, politicians and ruling elites – and laundered in the United States. Here is a look at some of the cases it is pursuing:
General Sani Abacha
The Nigerian dictator general Sani Abacha died more than a decade ago. Efforts by the government to seize $630 million from Abacha’s estate and his family are moving ahead slowly. Two years ago, the government won a court order to transfer $480 million in Abacha’s offshore accounts to the United States and is in litigation for the rest. A big question is what to do with the money when it arrives. The government says it wants to repatriate the money to Nigeria.
He was prime minister of Ukraine in the 1990s when, American officials claim, he extorted millions in kickbacks. His rise through Ukrainian politics was meteoric and he is accused of cutting sweetheart deals for cronies and failing to report the wealth he obtained from Ukraine’s most lucrative business sectors.In 2009, he was convicted in federal court of money laundering, served time in prison and is now seeking to remain in the United States. The government is trying to seize $250 million in Lazarenko’s offshore accounts. But a stiff legal fight from him has kept the case tied up for a decade.
Janet Lim-Napoles is accused of stealing millions of dollars meant for disaster relief and other development programmes in a decade-long kickback scheme dubbed the “pork barrel scam.” The government has filed a complaint to seize $12 million in supposed bribes that it says were transferred to bank accounts in the United States and used to buy a condo at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles for her daughter, as well as a Porsche for another daughter, a motel near Disneyland, and other California properties.
The former president of Taiwan forfeited his Manhattan condo and his home in the scenic hills of Virginia’s wine country, just outside Charlottesville. The government said both were purchased with bribes paid to Taiwan’s then-first lady, Wu Shu-chen, by a Taiwanese financial services company seeking to expand its business. Money from the bribes travelled through shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and Nevis and into Swiss bank accounts controlled by the couple’s son and used to conceal the family’s purchase of properties in the United States.Both Chen and his wife were sentenced in 2009 in Taiwan to 20 years in prison for bribery, embezzlement and money laundering. He was granted a medical parole in 2015. Wu Shu-chen received a similar medical release in 2011.
She’s the daughter of the Uzbekistan president, and a former socialite, fashion designer and model. The United States government seeks to seize $300 million in bribes it says she received from Russian and other foreign companies wanting to land Uzbek telecom contracts. The money moved through a number of shell companies and is now held in overseas branches of an American bank. Karimova is reported to be under house arrest in Tashkent.