The United States has finally decided to seize Michael Jackson's glove. Not that it has anything against Michael Jackson. The owner of the glove, however, is another matter. Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator, has a thing for Michael Jackson memorabilia. He also has a taste for other luxury items, such as Bentleys, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces, and Ferraris, not to mention his $38 million Gulfstream Jet or his $30 million Malibu home overlooking famous Surfrider Beach. I drove by his house yesterday, and it's not too shabby as far as Malibu homes go. (Check out a photo here.)
All of that is now in jeopardy because the United States government has set its sights on Obiang. It seems that after four years of investigation, the government filed a lis pendens action against Obiang's property, giving notice that the forfeiture of such property is now at risk because of legal action against Obiang. The action is filed as United States v. One White Crystal-Covered 'Bad Tour' Glove.
As Ken Silverstein reports,
The U.S. Justice Department and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency have been investigating Teodorin -- Equatorial Guinea's minister of agriculture and forestry and his father's handpicked successor -- on suspicion of laundering funds into the United States and alleged "extortion, theft of public funds, or other corrupt conduct" back at home, according to documents from the government's probe.
Obiang enjoys such luxuries because his family is squandering the natural resources of one of the richest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As reported here, "With a nominal per capita GDP of $36,600, according to U.S. government data, Equatorial Guinea's 650,000 people could be enjoying living standards comparable to people in France (per capita GDP of $33,100) or Germany ($35,700). Instead, many Equatoguineans lack access to clean water or modern sanitation." The country is ranked well below the median on the Human Development Index, 118 out of 182 countries. It also is ranked extremely low on the poverty index, the gender disparity index, the life mortality index, among many other issues.
When oil was discovered off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in 1992, there were high hopes that the country would become the Kuwait of Africa. Instead it has come to look like many other African kleptocracies.
With the United States and several European countries tightening the noose around Obiang's neck, he may personally be experiencing something akin to these Michael Jackson lyrics:
The foulest stench is in the air; The funk of forty thousand years; And grizzly ghouls from every tomb; Are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive; Your body starts to shiver; For no mere mortal can resist; The evil of the thriller.