Teodorin Obiang, accused of plundering $115m, owns luxury properties, yachts, cars and Michael Jacksons crystal glove
The days of the Bugattis, the chateau Ptrus and the fine Parisian restaurants may be over for Teodorin Obiang at least in western Europe.
The son of Equatorial Guineas leader is due to go on trial for corruption and money laundering in a landmark case in France.
Obiang, the 47-year-old vice-president of the oil-rich but impoverished African country, faces an array of legal cases across Europe as authorities on the continent investigate the sources of his vast wealth and uncover new and even more extravagant ways that he spent some of it.
US officials have already forced Obiang to forfeit property after accusing him of shamelessly looting his country. In a settlement, Obiang agreed to hand over more than $30m (24.5m) worth of properties, including a vast villa in Malibu, California, and a dozen luxury cars.
Obiang, however, managed to keep his $38m private jet and collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, which includes a crystal-studded glove.
(CNN)Orania is not prime real estate by any stretch of the imagination.
The settlement west of the Orange River in Northern Cape, South Africa lies on arid and weather-beaten land; baked by the harsh summer sun and frigid through the dry winter. It’s farmable, but not easy, requiring strong backs and calloused hands.
Rising above the scrub the town’s symbol flutters atop a flagpole, a young boy rolling up his sleeves, preparing to knuckle down and transform this landscape. It’s a romanticized image for a romanticized notion: a place where Afrikaners can be Afrikaners. Tough, resourceful and making do; descendants of Dutch settlers and proud of it.
A remote farming town of approximately 1,300, Orania by this description is unremarkable. Except it is not. Instead, the community has gained a notoriety beyond its modest means as a parochial enclave within the Rainbow Nation, where the dream of an Afrikaner state is alive and well.
Orania, you might have guessed, is Afrikaner-only. And by extension, whites-only.
It’s also growing.
Beginning life in 1990 during the last gasps of apartheid, the Afrikaner town was the brainchild of Carel Boshoff III. The son-in-law of H.F. Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, he and a number of families purchased an abandoned workers’ village with lofty ambitions that one day hundreds of thousands of Afrikaners might call it home.
“There is only one truly Afrikaans-speaking university remaining of the 22 institutes for higher learning that there used to be,” Hermann Giliomee, extraordinary professor of history at the University of Stellenbosch, tells Norman. The BBC also reported in 2015 that the university faced calls to drop Afrikaans.
In its embattled state, Afrikaner history becomes hagiography. The efforts of the pioneering Voortrekkers, who traveled inland fleeing the British and fought against Zulus in the Battle of Blood River, are lionized by some present day Afrikaners, who identify with their struggle.
“We are the white tribe of Africa and I want my people to understand that we have as much right to be here,” the Reverend Schalk Albertyn, once an anti-apartheid activist, tells Norman.
Gideon de Kock, curator of the Orania Museum, circa 2013.
A minority ruler, in the space of three decades, has reverted to a minority movement. And “a minority,” writes Norman, “can always become a majority through isolation.”
For some, Orania is a solution, for others a symptom of the failings of post-apartheid South Africa. Its residents are largely conservative and Christian. Between them they’re disillusioned and disenfranchised, wary of the government, its political structures, policies and leaders. The system, they say, is not working for them.
The safety net of social welfare for Afrikaners, including jobs and houses, which maintained the image of the “good white,” is no more. Affirmative action has shaped a more diverse workforce, proportional with the racial breakdown of South Africa. However some white people with Afrikaans as their first language, who make up about 5% of the population according to the 2011 census, say they feel squeezed out (despite unemployment data suggesting relative stability).
(NB: The South African government defines “African” as black, “Colored” as mixed race, and “Indian/Asian” as of South Asian or Asian extraction.)
Today there are as many as 400 white informal settlements in South Africa, according to charity Helping Hand, something once unthinkable. But that doesn’t give the complete picture. Fact-checking website Africa Check analyzed the 2011 census and found that while 7,754 white households lived in informal settlements, 1,868,325 black African families lived in similar circumstances.
Kobus Gouws and Caspar Muller, step-brothers interviewed by Norman and residents of Sunshine Corner, a township outside of Pretoria.
But empathy is lacking, suggests Norman.
“Many Afrikaners … still have a feeling of entitlement,” she argues. “They may realize that things are just as bad for the majority of the black population, but they’re used to being in a place where that couldn’t happen to a white person. That’s what they’re comparing it to: comparing themselves to the past, rather than their poor contemporaries.”
“Many poor and uneducated Afrikaners I spoke to claimed they would prefer to starve rather than become the maid or gardener of a black middle-class family,” Norman writes.
Some Afrikaners come to Orania out of desperation, Norman told CNN. Much of her time was spent in Kleingeluk (“Small Happiness”), a block of residences for single male workers brought in from the fringes of society.
“[Orania takes] on people who struggle with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, former felons, or just the unemployed and uneducated,” says Norman. Put to work largely farming and building, there’s zero tolerance of substance abuse for these men who had been “total ‘come-aparts’.”
“This is a last resort for them; a place where they can find work, pick themselves up. Some only stay to sober up. They work, save a few rand, then move on. Others come because they feel they have no opportunities in South Africa,” the author told CNN.
Riaan, one of the residents of Kleingeluk, small apartments for single male workers in Orania.
“For some it’s been a good thing, and it’s definitely better than the alternative — although that’s not to say it’s ideal,” she adds, describing their living conditions on the edge of Orania as “pretty deplorable.”
Describing the whole community, Norman says she doesn’t think they’re the most racist Afrikaners in South Africa: “There’s more racist areas, and certainly more racist people than these guys in particular.
“But that doesn’t mean they’re role models in any way.”
Crime and punishment
Norman’s interviewees frequently cite violent crime as a concern. The numbers, on the whole, are chastening. Murders nationwide increased 4.9% between April 2015 and March 2016 to 18,673, the equivalent of 33.9 per 100,000 of the population — a rate nearly seven times higher than the United States in 2015.
There have been claims of high levels of black-on-white murder in post-apartheid years. However Africa Check looked into these claims in 2013, using figures dating back to April 1994. Among its conclusions, it said “the fact is that whites are less likely to be murdered than any other race in South Africa.” Further, “the current murder rate of white South Africans is also equivalent to, or lower than, murder rates for whites recorded between 1979 and 1991.”
Stubble burning on one of Orania’s farms, circa 2003.
The latter told CNN that “if close co-operation can be reached and a common interest in [a] bigger self-determining region be cultivated, [a land] corridor can become part of the project.”
“It may be possible for a strong and successful Orania to play a leading role in such a future coalition between communities with related cultural backgrounds,” writes Boshoff, although concedes “it seems quite far off at the moment.”
Far off, perhaps, but if the events of 2016 have emboldened anyone, it’s been fringe movements.
“In the beginning […] we were regarded as mad,” Boshoff tells Norman. “Now that has changed dramatically.”
The simple fact is theyre stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another, Clooney told a press conference in Washington
The president of South Sudan is directly profiting from the countrys civil war and even his 12-year-old son has a stake in a business venture, according to a two-year investigation commissioned by the actor and activist George Clooney.
Salva Kiir, his former deputy Riek Machar and associates of both men have looted the country in accumulating wealth that includes multimillion-dollar mansions, top-of-the-range cars and stakes in a number of overseas businesses, a report by the US-based watchdog The Sentry claims.
Some of the family members and close associates have posted photos of themselves on social media on planes, in five-star hotels and in luxury vehicles even as South Sudan descends into a violent kleptocracy that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced 2.5 million people from their homes.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, but plunged into conflict soon after Kiir fired Machar as vice-president in 2013. Both sides are accused of orchestrating mass rapes, child soldier recruitment and massacres of civilians. A peace deal reached a year ago under international pressure has been violated repeatedly by fighting, and Machar fled the country last month.
The simple fact is theyre stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another, Clooney told a press conference in Washington yesterday before a meeting with Barack Obama.
The evidence is thorough, it is detailed and it is irrefutable. It involves arms dealers, international lawyers, international banks, international real estate and it is because of these international actors that we are also able to provide solutions to help end this criminal behaviour to protect innocent civilians, he said.
Exclusive: documents obtained by the Guardian show Nigerian agency looking into 2009 lease agreement for countrys Crown Jewels oil fields
ExxonMobils deal to secure the Crown Jewels of Nigerian oil reserves is under investigation by the west African countrys economic and financial crimes commission, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
A letter provided to the Guardian addressed to an Exxon subsidiary from Nigerias federal ministry of petroleum resources shows the accepting of a 2009 bid of $1.5bn for a 20-year lease on the Oso, Ekpe, Edop and Ubit oil fields, which produce about 580,000 barrels a day between them close to a third of Nigerias crude oil production of about 1.8bn barrels a day, according to Opec.
Local Exxon rival Sunrise Power & Transmission, at the time a consortium of Nigerian and Chinese interests that included the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), bid $3.75bn for the same rights, according to a letter from Sunrise to the Nigerian president.
The deal was reported to the Nigerian authorities by Lanre Suraju, a Nigerian anti-corruption activist and chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption. Suraju said he was passed documents related to the deal by a concerned citizen after his June 2015 petition to investigate the bid was made public. Suraju was the recipient of a letter dated 17 August 2015 in which the authorities confirm they are investigating the deal.
The documents were given to the Guardian by international watchdog group Global Witness, which said it had confirmed the investigation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC told the Guardian it could not comment on the existence of an investigation, though Suraju said that as of last week the EFCC has progressed impressively on the matter.
Revelations about the investigation come at a sensitive moment for the oil industry: the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently considering a rulemaking under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that would require energy companies to disclose the specific payments, down to the level of the individual project, that the firms make to foreign governments in order to secure lucrative mining and drilling rights.
Dominic Eagleton of Global Witness said his organization wants to support greater transparency in international oil deals and hopes the SEC rule passes as proposed. Its vital that the US introduces strong transparency rules to bring these deals into public view, enabling citizens in Nigeria and other oil-rich nations to hold their governments and companies to account for how the money is used, he said.
Exxon has argued to the SEC that the new rule disregards a court ruling against the regulator and the many comments, concerns, and good-faith proposals for alternative approaches put forward by industry.
An internal memo signed by executives of the nations state-run oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), shows Exxons local subsidiary Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) originally tried to acquire a 25-year license to receive billions of dollars of oil for just $75m, saying they had expected the price for the lease renewal to be millions not billions.
The three oil-mining leases, or OMLs, renewed in 2009 at the end of a 40-year lease, are for shallow-water offshore lots of oil-rich real estate labeled blocks 67, 68 and 70. Production at the properties is very high, according to reports. Assuming the leased properties generate that many barrels every day of the year at an average of $50 a barrel, the gross revenue from ExxonMobils 40% stake in the wells would come to $4.2bn annually. The properties also produce natural gas.
Mobil Producing Nigeria takes strong exception to these allegations, Lauren Kerr, the operations media relations manager for ExxonMobil, told the Guardian. Mobil Producing Nigeria fully complied with the requirements outlined by Nigerian law for the renewal of oil mining licenses 67, 68 and 70. Nigerian law, as prescribed under the Petroleum Act, outlines the processes and procedures for an oil mining license renewal in the country. Within this framework an agreement between the Nigerian government and MPN was reached and legally executed.
We have noted the same to Global Witness.
The company adheres to the highest standards of business conduct, and to imply so without evidence is grossly irresponsible.
CNOOC said it would not comment on the specifics of the deal, though spokeswoman Irene Gao said the company had learned from the experience: In the future, the Company will attach more importance to the organic development of overseas assets and further optimize its overseas portfolio, Gao told the Guardian.
Just two months before the renewal, the Financial Times reported that Tanimu Yakubu, economic adviser to Nigerias former president Umaru YarAdua, had said that Chinese bidders are really offering multiples of what existing producers are pledging [for licences] we love to see this kind of competition.
But the leases stayed with Exxon to the consternation of Leno Adesanya, at the time the chairman of Sunrise Power & Transmission, a consortium of local and Chinese interests that included CNOOC.
In the case of ExxonMobils OML 67, 68 and 70, our consortium offered $3.75bn for 40% equity interest in oil reserves, Adesanya wrote to Nigerias current president, Muhammadu Buhari, last July according to one letter provided to the Guardian. The letter goes on to say that the company had offered $18.75bn for a 100% interest in the same properties under the original agreements, the wells are a joint venture in which 40% of the oil goes to Mobil Producing Nigeria, and the other 60% to Nigerias state oil company.
A letter from 31 August 2009, little more than two months before the acceptance of the lower bid, details the $18bn bid from Sunrise and seems to assert the Chinese firms ability to handle the daunting logistics of changing ownership from Exxon, though it does not directly refer to its competitor: It is important to emphasize that Sunrise, CNOOC and the other constituent members of the Consortium are not only capable of funding petroleum operations in the respective OMLs, but have the technical know-how to undertake and carry out petroleum operations as required by international petroleum oilfield practices.
Exxons current rights are based on a disputed November 2009 deal, the negotiation of which was the subject of an inquiry by Nigerias now former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madeuke, who said at the time she would recall the agreement since they had only been signed by a junior minister, Henry Odein Ajumogobia, and had never been countersigned by the senior oil minister, the late Rilwanu Lukman. A letter from Ajumogobia sets the price of the Exxon deal at $1.5bn, though it was widely reported as costing only $600m.
Alison-Madeuke, later the president of Opec, was arrested in London last October by Britains National Crime Agency as part of a corruption investigation. She was released on bail and did not appear before a magistrate in October, citing health concerns.
The documents appear to include pages one and three of an initial agreement from Ajumogobia confirming the renewal of the leases. Page two has been withheld; Suraju said he believes that it contains terms outlining the construction of a power plant, which the government presented as evidence that it had driven a hard bargain when pressed to investigate the deal for corruption.
Local news reports citing Nigerian officials value the power plant at $900m, which Suraju believes accounts for the difference between the $600m reported and the $1.5bn described in the letter to MPN from Ajumogobia.
The design contract for the power plant was awarded in 2009. In 2010, the NNPC announced groundbreaking on the project. An article published Tuesday described progress on the power plant, located at ExxonMobils Qua Iboe terminal in Akwa Ibom state, as slow.
One of the documents obtained by Suraju is a memo signed by officials of the national oil firm, the NNPC, describing the negotiations with Exxon. [T]hese blocks, particularly OMLs 67, 68 and 70 are the most prolific portfolio of hydrocarbon assets in offshore Niger-Delta, the governments representatives said. They are rightly referred to as the Crown Jewels.
Exxons lease on the blocks was set to expire in November 2009, and renegotiating that agreement was of paramount importance to the west African nation. [T]hese blocks represent the last remaining shallow-water resources of this magnitude in the Nigerian continental shelf and therefore lease renewal represents a unique opportunity for value capture for the Government, the reports authors wrote. Assuming a long-term minimum oil price of $50 a barrel (Brent crude was trading for just over $50 a barrel on Thursday), the government asked for $2.55bn.
The central bank of Zimbabwe issued $100,000,000,000,000 notes during the last days of hyperinflation in 2009, and they barely paid for a loaf of bread. But their value has shot up
Whats been one of the best-performing investments of the past seven years? Shares in Facebook? London property? Bitcoin? Up there with the best, believe it or not, are Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar notes.
A trillion, by the way, is a million million. There are 12 zeros in a trillion. Add another two to reach the total on the Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar bill, the note with the most zeroes of any legal tender in all recorded history. The bills circulated for a few months in 2009 at the zenith or, more precisely, the nadir of one of the most terrible instances of hyperinflation in history, before Harare finally abandoned the Zimbabwean dollar in favour of the South African rand, the US dollar and several other foreign currencies.
At one stage a hundred trillion dollar note would not even cover a bus fare. You needed a bale of notes just to buy a few household essentials. However, its thought that only a few million of them were ever printed.
I remember buying one on eBay. It is on the wall in my office. John Wolstencroft, a private investor, bought a batch of them to give away. I always found they were a good conversation starter, he says.
In 2010-11, Wolstencroft was living in New Zealand where he joined an investment club, made up mostly of locals and US expats. At the time, the great central banking experiment of quantitative easing and a 0% interest rate policy was making a lot of people nervous. He brought a handful of the Zimbabwean notes along to his first meeting to give out as a way of saying thank you for letting him join the club, but there were more people there than he was expecting.
I didnt have enough notes to go round, he says. People started offering me money for them. I tried to explain they were just a gift, but they just upped their offer. I realised then these notes were going to become a collectors item.
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