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African dictator’s son commissions $387m mega-yacht

In a country where some children never reach their fifth birthday, the son of the Equatorial Guinea’s dictator has commissioned a super-yacht complete with movie theatre, restaurant, pool and shark tank.

Roman Abramovich's Pelorus - understood to have been used as a blueprint for the planned Obiang yacht, courtesy of Global Witness.
Roman Abramovich's Pelorus - understood to have been used as a blueprint for the planned Obiang yacht, courtesy of Global Witness.

THE SON of Equatorial Guinea’s dictator has commissioned a yacht worth $387 million (€279 million) - three times what the country spends annually on health and education, a corruption watchdog has said.

Teodorin Obiang – eldest son of Teodoro Obiang - has ordered plans for a 397-foot vessel, which includes a movie theatre, restaurant, pool, shark tank and fingerprint door openers, according to London-based international corruption watchdog Global Witness.

Despite the massive oil wealth of Equatorial Guinea (the country’s GDP is in line with Denmark’s) the vast majority of the country’s citizens live in abject poverty. In a country rich with energy revenues generated by ExxonMobil, Marathon and other multinational giants, 20 per cent of children die before their fifth birthday.

According to the International Monetary Fund, more than three quarters of the population of  Equatorial Guinea earn less than one dollar per day. Meanwhile President Obiang, who has been in power for 30 years, came eighth on a list by Forbes of the world’s richest leaders in 2006 -with a personal fortune estimated at $600 million (€433 million).

‘Basic’ plans for €250,000

Kusch Yachts, the German company with which the order was placed, told Global Witness that it had completed the basic design for the vessel with an original delivery date for 2012. These plans alone were priced at a €250,00.

The government of Equatorial Guinea confirmed that the order was made, but added that it had since been withdrawn. A spokeswoman said: “The minister requested a sketch of the design of a yacht three to four years ago and no contract or agreement exists with the Kusch company.” The spokesperson claimed that if the order had gone ahead Teodorin “would have bought it with income from his private business activities” and said that “there are no legal restrictions prohibiting public figures from taking part in private lucrative activities” in the country.

Meanwhile, the watchdog has urged European institutions to boycott all dealings with the Obiang regime, drawing parallels between it and other repressive regimes such as Libya – where calls for the freezing of Col Gaddafi’s assets in recent days are seen as far too little far too late by some.

A 2007 US Justice Department stated that most of Obiang’s assets had “originated from extortion, theft of public funds, or other corrupt conduct.”

Global Witness’s Robert Palmer told TheJournal.ie: “It is impossible to be corrupt to this point without access to the global financial system. He would need to have a bank account somewhere to funnel funds out of Equatorial Guinea into places like the US. This would have to be with the complicity of western banks that have a legal responsibility to know where funds come from”.

He said that, while earning a ministerial salary of just $6,799 per month, Teodorin owns a $35 million dollar Malibu mansion, a fleet of luxury cars and a private jet – a lifestyle that already doesn’t add up before further plans to construct and keep a multi-million euro vessel are thrown into the mix.

“Evidence points to corruption by Teodorin on a scale that would not be possible or attractive if countries like Germany and the US were not safe havens, in terms of free passage for him and for his questionable private wealth,” said Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns at Global Witness.

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