afrol News, 28 February - Teodorín Obiang, the notorious son of Equatorial Guinea's long-ruling dictator, has commissioned plans to build a super-yacht worth US$ 380 million - almost three times the country's annual social spending.
The UK-based civil society group Global Witness today has reported its newest investigations into the economy of the Equatoguinean playboy-turned-minister. The group can document on of the largest spending posts yet of the Obiang family, in complete control of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
Teodorín - whose full name is Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue - had asked Germany's Kusch Yachts "to draw up a basic design for the secret project, which is codenamed 'Zen'," according to Global Witness' revelations.
Last year, the UK group revealed details from a US Justice Department investigation into Teodorín, which mentioned plans to build a yacht. After discovering that it was to be built at Kusch's shipyard in northern Germany, a Global Witness investigator visited the company and obtained key details about the project, confirming the identity of the client, and the yacht's price tag.
The vessel's basic design was completed by Kusch in December 2009, costing euro 250,000 (US$ 342,000), with an original delivery date set for late 2012. "However, construction has not yet started," the group was told at the shipyard in Wewelsfleth, north of Hamburg.
Kusch employees who spoke with Global Witness said that Teodorin's yacht would be 118.5 meters (387 feet), housing a cinema, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a US$ 1.3 million security system complete with floor motion sensors, photoelectric barriers and fingerprint door openers. Teodorín reportedly met a representative of Kusch at a hotel in Switzerland to discuss the design.
The price tag for the planned luxury yacht, euro 288 million (US$ 380 million), would make it among the ten most expa
Roman Abramovich's yacht "Pelorus" is understood to be the blueprint for the planned Obiang yacht
nsive in the world. The sum equals Equatorial Guinea's total spending on health and education programmes combined over the last three years.
"The Obiang regime has a long track record of looting money that belongs in Equatorial Guinea's treasury," Global Witness says in a statement today.
The UK group has previously revealed Teodorín's profligate lifestyle in the US and elsewhere, with a US$ 35 million Malibu mansion, a fleet of luxury cars and a private jet, while earning a ministerial salary of US$ 6,799 per month. "It would take him some 4,600 years to pay for Project Zen on his reported official salary," the group notes.
"Evidence points to corruption by Teodorín 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 of Global Witness. "US$ 380 million is a staggering sum - that a President's son from such a poor country has ordered this yacht is outrageous extravagance on his part," he added.
The Information and Press Bureau of the government of Equatorial Guinea has confirmed that Teodorín had ordered the design, while adding that he "then dismissed the idea of buying it." The spokesperson claimed that if the order had gone ahead Teodorín, "would have bought it with income from his private business activities and he would not in any case have bought it with funds derived from sources of illegal financing or corruption".
She clarified that, in Equatorial Guinea, "there are no legal restrictions prohibiting public figures from taking part in private lucrative activities."
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