GAB is pleased to publish this account of the second part of the 4th day of the trial of Equatorial Guinean Vice President Teodorin Nguema Obiang by Shirley Pouget of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
As detailed in an earlier post, five witnesses testified June 26, 2017, in support of the corruption charges laid against Equatorial Vice President Teodorin Nguema Obiang. Teodorin called but a single witness in his defense: Simon Mann, an assistant to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been President of Equatorial Guinea for the past 38 years and also happens to be Teodorin’s father.
Mann came into President Obiang’s employ by a strange route. Hired by a Lebanese businessman to overthrow Obiang, he was captured and jailed. Mann explained that Obiang later pardoned him and then hired him as an advisor. When the court asked if he was still employed by Obiang he replied:
“They pay my expenses as well as a per diem.”
He denied, however, that he was being paid to testify.
Mann began by saying that some individuals present in the courtroom have been involved in efforts to destabilize the government of Equatorial Guinea. At that point William Bourdon, counsel for Transparency International-France, interjected:
“I must express my serious concerns and reservations regarding this testimony and the tactics used the defense to personally discredit the opposing counsel. I would like to inform the tribunal that I have sought assistance from the Bar Council (Ordre des Avocats de Paris) and will be making a formal complaint against defense counsel Marsigny for breach of professional conduct and ethics. With this in mind, I will not be cross-examining the witness.”
The witness explained how he was recruited in 2003 by Lebanese oil millionaire Elie Khalil and other associates to plot a coup to overthrow the President Teodoro Obiang. “The coup was planned over a few meetings both in London and Madrid. We attempted two coups and both failed. I was arrested along with 70 of my soldiers in Zimbabwe in 2004, where I was beaten up and tortured. I was subsequently sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in Zimbabwe and extradited to Equatorial Guinea in 2008. I received a 34-year prison sentence in Equatorial Guinea for my role in the failed coup d’état in 2004, before receiving a presidential pardon 18 months later.” [GAB: An account of Mann’s activities at odds in several respects with his testimony is here.]
Mann kept on saying that he was released on the condition that he would help the President of Equatorial Guinea to prosecute those responsible for plotting the coup, including Elie Khalil and Mark Thatcher, son of Britain’s former conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He was subsequently appointed adviser to the president. It is in this capacity that he learned of information that explains what is happening today in Equatorial Guinea. “I went to Beirut four times on behalf of the president. Scotland Yard and the police in South Africa made a few statements too. I went on to believe that some people have been trying to destabilize the government since 2011. It does not have to be by military measures. In 2011, during a conversation I had with President Obiang, I warned him that some individuals- including William Bourdon, Georges Soros, Elie Khalil, Severo Moto and other associates- were attempting to destabilize the government, but this time through a judicial action. Straight after I expressed my concerns, the President showed an email that William Bourdon allegedly sent to Elie Khalil in 2007- in which the French attorney expressed concerns over ‘the behavior of Teodorin.’”
At that point Counsel Bourdon objected: “This is a personal attack of an extreme gravity against the Counsel of the civil party. You are soiling the Civil Parties. This testimony has nothing to do with the case. ”
The Presiding Judge requested the witness to testify on the facts of money laundering that took place in France and to limit his testimony to those facts.
The witness made it clear that the cited persons did not necessarily committed any criminal act. “The President just confirmed my impression by showing me that e-mail” he said.
The defense indicated that a prominent French lawyer, Henri Leclerc, had provided the e-mail to help Jean Meckaert (a former employee at the French NGO Comite Catholique Contre la Faim (CCFD) defend a defamation lawsuit brought against him in 2008. “The case file was communicated to the President by his Counsel, and this is how he was made aware of that email”. [GAB: In 2007, the CCFD published Bien mal acquis:à qui profite le crime ? [Ill-gotten gains: Who profits ?], a report that formed part of the initial complaint against the Obiang family in this case. The defamation suit brought against Meckaert was unsuccessful.]