A recent article in a glossy magazine about the rich and famous mentioned a $35 million house in Malibu, California, whose neighbors include Mel Gibson and Britney Spears. The owner of this mega-structure is one Teodoro Nguema Obiang, son of a man who goes by the same name.
Obiang Junior is 38 years old and is paid $4,000 per month back in the old country. He is obviously a man who counts his pennies, because he paid for the house in cash, as he did when purchasing a Gulfstream V jet for $38 million, four Ferraris for $1 million, two Rolls-Royce Phantoms at $350,000 each, two Maybach Mercedes at $350,000 each, and a couple of speedboats and a large yacht for prices unknown.
Not bad for a 38-year-old with a (very) limited education making 48,000 greenbacks per year. The man sure knows how to save. And spend. Mind you, we are living in a capitalist society, so why not? Teodoro’s excesses might not be tolerated in today’s economic climate, but he’s no Wall Street executive. No Lloyd Blankfein he. He’s not even a Bernie Madoff. What he is—yes, you guessed it, dear readers—is black, and better yet, a real, honest-to-goodness African. His father is Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo, president for life of Equatorial Guinea, and Junior is his agricultural and forestry minister. Equatorial Guinea is a small coastal African country with a population of 500,000, most of whom live well below the poverty line, and whose infant death rate is 93 percent, among the highest in the world. There is no clean water, and there are no health services. Simon Mann, an English mercenary recently pardoned by Teodoro Senior (for a large yacht, I presume) reported his fellow jailbirds eating insects and rats, although he, being a European, was given favored treatment—grass and bread crumbs.
How does Old Man Obiang manage to live in a grand palace, have billions in American banks, and be so generous with his penny-pinching son? That’s as hard to answer as trying to guess why Goldman Sachs gave $500 million to help small businesses last month. Equatorial Guinea has undergone an oil boom in recent years, which—on paper—has produced the highest per capita income in Africa. But for some strange reason its people continue to drink foul water, eat insects and rats, and watch while 93 percent of their children die of malnutrition and lack of healthcare.
Although African apologists like the vile self-publicist Bono might accuse the people of being masochists, the facts are very simple. Obiang has stolen the whole kit and caboodle while the oil companies, those nice guys who charged us more for their gas while oil prices were plunging, are happy to deposit the moolah in banks such as Wachovia, Bank of America, and the Riggs Bank in Washington (which was fined $25 million back in 2004 for accepting Obiang funds).
Here’s what Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, an otherwise pompous buffoon, had to say: “The fact that someone like Mr. Obiang continues to travel freely here suggests strongly that the State Department is not yet applying the law [regulating visas] as vigorously as Congress intended.” And travel freely the Obiangs do. While their people starve, African crooks extort, steal, and use corrupt methods to export millions in the hundreds and thousands to greedy bankers in Europe and America. They use shell corporations and offshore accounts to launder the money, and although Uncle Sam is aware of what is going on, the oil lobbies are busy protecting the thieves. Many payments for oil and timber from Equatorial Guinea are made by Western corporations directly to Obiang. He also receives bribes and extortion payments from the oil companies.
When I asked a past commissioner of customs why the U.S. government is turning a blind eye and only concentrates on drugs, I was told that “people can go without cocaine, but not without oil.” Worse is the fact that Junior routinely travels to the United States with over a million in cash on his person, which he fails to declare. A crime punishable by up to five years in the pokey, but Junior travels on a diplomatic passport, which I guess makes it OK.
Billions in Western aid go to poor African countries, but they never reach the poor. They go straight back to Western banks and into the greedy pockets of people like the Obiangs. President Bongo of Gabon, now resting in that sauna-like place below, had 15 enormous properties in France, 10 luxury cars, and 70 bank accounts. Young Teodoro obviously suffers from an inferiority complex to need such large cars and airplanes. My advice to him is to copy, say, Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz and have a penile-extension operation. Then purchase a mini. It might do wonders for his image.
But seriously. Equatorial Guinea has become the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, with revenues of about $4.8 billion per year. Surely the Obama administration can do something about this bum, as well as the rest of the crooks in Africa. No more African aid until they cough up the stolen loot, including the Malibu mansion, the jet, the yacht, and the eight cars. And a little time in some federal prison to teach Junior a lesson. But I won’t be holding my breath.