Teodorin's Lawyers Take the Fifth

Even in the staid, suits-filled chambers of the Dirken Senate Building in Washington, bouts of snickers could be heard yesterday as the Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations tried to get answers from US lawyers who have represented African dictators and their family members in bringing into the US economy proceeds from corruption, and often spending it on luxury homes, jets and lavish partying States-side.

A major focus of the hearing was the money laundering and luxe spending habits of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue, aka Teodorin, son of Equatorial Guinea president (dictator) Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

His lawyers pleaded the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and were excused. While they may have been able to buy another day of impunity today, the 125 exhibits compiled by the Subcommittee tell a story that implicates US lawyers, banks, realtors and escrow agents so deeply that the fight for justice, transparency and accountability for the people of EG will not go away anytime soon.

The Open Society Justice Initiative is working with two human rights NGOs—Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España, based in Spain, and EG Justice, based in the US—to uncover the trail of money left by the Obiang clan, and pursue remedies for abuse.

The Senate Subcommittee on Investigations should be commended for its efforts leading up to the report issued today and the thorough research behind it. With continued attention to, and intolerance for, the infiltration of proceeds of corruption in the US, those who assist kleptocrats in stealing from their own citizens will have to pay a bigger price than a few minutes of squirming in a chair to come up with a justification for their acts.

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