Spanish Prosecution service to investigate Obiang in Spain for money laundering
The Spanish Anti-Corruption Prosecution Service has decided to investigate bank accounts and property investments in Spain held by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of Equatorial Guinea – one of the richest men in the World according to Forbes. Some of his relatives and also some ministers in his government will also come under scrutiny. Luis del Río Montes de Oca, who Works for the Spanish Prosecution Service has given his support to a lawsuit brought about by the Spanish Association for Human Rights for the presumed crime of laundering money. Obiang is accused of illegally transferring 26.5 million dollars (19 million euros) from the US to a bank account in Las Palmas.
Last week Del Río presented a document in which he gives the courts in Las Palmas the power to investigate the facts and which also asks the judge, Ana Isabel de Vega, to ask Santander Bank to provide details and bank extracts of an account opened in Las Palmas under the name of a Panamanian business called Kalunga Company, SA.
Representatives of the Anti-Corruption Service in Las Palmas have also requested that the Service for the Prevention of the Laundering of Captial (Sepblac) for the Bank of Spain provides reports on transactions from this bank account.
An inquiry by the Sub-Committee for Investigations on behalf of the US Senate found that Teodoro Obiang was the owner of a Petrol Bank account for Equatorial Guinea held in the American bank Riggs, from which 16 money transfers were made to a Spanish bank account between 7th June 2000 and 11th December 2003 with a total value of 26,483,982 dollars.
At this time it is alleged that the Equatorial Guinea bank account held up to 700 million dollars and that the American Petrol companies Marathon y Exxon Mobil made payments into this account.
It is also alleged that the bank did not follow anti- laundering regulations and helped Obiang and his children to create phantom companies and open bank accounts according to the investigations by the US Senate.
The Spanish bank account held under the name of Kalunga Company, SA, appears to be a mystery. According to sources close to the investigation, the Bank of Spain has not provided any information to the US Senate so far (legislation prevents it from doing so) but that it alerted the Spanish Anti-Money Laundering Service of suspicious transactions from this account. Obiang or his relatives did not appear as account holders or had any authorising signatures for the bank account held in Las Palmas and only a couple of Russian citizens, who are presumed to be front men for the real account holders, were authorised to withdraw money from this account.
Those bringing the lawsuit against Obiang and members of his family and government allege that they illegally used public money obtained from the sale of petrol to fund the bank account in Spain and have linked 16 transfers from the account in Riggs with the purchase of 6 houses and 3 garage places under the name of Obiang and several of his ministers in Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, Gijón and Las Palmas.
The US Senate Sub-Committee found that Kalunga Company, SA, under whose name a bank account was opened in Las Palmas is totally or partially the property of Obiang. In addition the account held in Riggs from which transfers were made to Spain is undersigned by Obiang, his son Gabriel and Melchor Esono Edjo, his former Secretary of State for the Treasury. Obiang’s signature was necessary for the transfer of funds from this account. The bank account in Las Palmas was subsequently closed down and Santander alerted Sepblac of its suspicions.
However the question of what has happened to the 26.5 million dollars remains a mystery. On 23rd February 2003 the directors of Riggs asked Obiang and his associates from Equatorial Guinea in Washington about money transfers made to Kalunga Company, SA. However, the dictator refused to answer any questions. Months later the American bank closed the accounts held by Obiang and his associates in Washington.
Judicial sources have said that in order to link money laundering activities to Obiang the prosecution service must demonstrate where these illicit funds came from. The investigation by the US Senate will play an important part in this given the fact that money transfers to Spain came from the account held in Riggs, a bank which has been accused of numerous irregularities in the management of funds received from Equatorial Guinea.