A recent auction of the 25 supercars seized from the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President, has fetched an astounding sum of 21.6 million euros. This puts the focus back on the small country which in spite of being the third-biggest oil producer in Africa has almost half of its population struggling with extreme poverty.
For a country which produces almost 300 000 barrels of oil a day and has a rather small population of one million, a poverty ridden population is not an outcome that any observer will expect. But away from the glitter of the capital city of Malabo and glossy infrastructure projects, the shadows in the domain of public health and education run deep. As per data gathered by UNICEF, the country has seventh highest proportion of children not registered in primary schools in the world.
The leaders of the country have been long accused of misusing the oil funds and indulging in corruption. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been one of the longest serving rulers in the world and has been leading for the past 40 years. The President’s rule has also brought in tight military controls and the heavy handed crackdowns on protestors in the past years, which have been frowned upon by various human rights associations.
The President’s family has amassed huge wealth in this period and his son and Vice-President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue often hit the headlines with his extravagant lifestyle. He is also projected as the likely successor to his father.
In 2014 he settled a charge by the US Justice Department of using his country’s public funds for personal gain by paying $30 million. The French authorities also convicted him for corruption in 2017 for using public money to lead a lavish lifestyle in Paris. The supercars along with a luxury yacht were seized by Swiss justice regarding a financial wrongdoing case that was opened in 2016. The government of Equatorial Guinea claimed that the cars were state property and were shipped to Switzerland for repairs.
The cars sold by British auctioneer Bonhams included seven Ferraris, five Bentleys, three Lamborghinis, a Maserati, a McLaren and a Bugatti Veyron. The most valued model in the collection, a 2014 limited-edition Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, was sold for $8.3m. All the cars were hardly driven and were in almost new condition.
“Cars like this would be the jewel of any collection, but to have them all together is really quite extraordinary,” remarked Lynnie Farrant, press officer for auctioneer Bonhams.
The prosecutors said they closed the inquiry into Mr Obiang as part of an arrangement to sell his cars to fund social programs in his country. The yacht was returned when he agreed to pay $1.2 million to cover the costs of the investigation.
Transparency International has already marked Equiatorial Guinea as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The country has recently expressed its desire to rejoin the Oslo-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative so that it can secure a loan package from the IMF. It was removed from the group in 2010 for repressing civil society and keeping oil, gas and mining revenues secret.
The good news for the poverty ridden population of Equatorial Guinea is that the Switzerland’s foreign ministry will oversee the use of the funds generated from the auction to bring some light back in their lives.