Billionaire philanthropist drives global crackdown on corruption

The US Department of Justice has reached a settlement regarding its civil forfeiture cases against assets in the United States owned by the Second Vice President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.

As part of the agreement, the second vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, will sell his US assets including six life-sized statues of singer Michael Jackson, OlivePress reports.

He will also sell his €20 million Malibu mansion and his Ferrari.

The proceeds are to be used to cover the expenses of the Department of Justice in pursuing the case (approximately $10 million) and the remainder for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, a tiny oil rich nation of 1.6 million people in the Gulf of Guinea, in Central Africa.

The agreement was welcomed by the Department of Justice and Nguema, and received more cautious praise from several NGOs sponsored by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros that were actively involved in these civil forfeiture cases and continue to be involved in similar proceedings brought against Nguema in France.

In a letter addressed to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on August 5th, the Open Society Justice Initiative, along with three other affiliate NGOs, urged him to make sure that the agreement with Mr. Nguema included language that would clearly state that the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea was guilty of corruption, but under the terms of the agreement signed this October Nguema does not recognize any wrongdoing.

In addition, the U.S. has undertaken not to assist third countries in pursuing similar cases against Mr. Nguema or his assets; a not so veiled reference to Mr. Soros efforts in France. The agreement also expressly establishes that the funds obtained from the sale of Mr. Nguema's assets may not be channeled to any organizations related to the political opposition to the government of Equatorial Guinea.

George Soros, and his vast network of NGOS - including the Open Society Foundation, the Justice Initiative, Global Witness and Transparency International - are at the front line of the global fight against corruption. The Hungarian-born billionaire champions transparency in business dealings involving resource rich countries in Africa. The agreement despite shortcomings mentioned is being lauded as a major step in the right direction.

It has also received a great deal of praise for incorporating a comprehensive list of measures to prevent the proceeds of the sales from ever finding their way back into the pockets of Nguema or his family including Nguema's father, who chairs the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

The agreement is the latest breakthrough in George Soros' fight against corruption. It comes on the heels of another major victory:

Early this year Guinea-Conakry decided to strip the Israeli billionaire Benny Steinmetz of the mining rights his company BSG Resources Ltd. acquited in this country in 2008 and return them to Rio Tintpo PLC.

Soros funded the initial investigation by the US law firm DLA Piper into events surrounding the decision by the former President of Guinea Lansana Conte to strip Rio Tinto PLC of half its licence and then award it to BSG Resources Ltd. for free.

Global Witness, sponsored by George Soros, provided continued assistance to the Guinean Government to reverse the decision of the former President Lansana Conte.

In a claim against Guinea-Conakry at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Benny Steinmetz alleges that Soros launched a smear campaign against BSG Resources Ltd., using Global Witness as a proxy.

Global Witness denies that Soros has any influence over its activities although the organisation acknowledges that it is partially funded by the billionaire philanthropist and that his son, Alexander Soros, sits on its board in an advisory capacity.

This is not the first time that Mr. Soros faces legal scrutiny. In 2002 a French court found Mr. Soros guilty of insider trading in the shares of the French bank Societe Generale. His conviction was upheld by the French Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights in 2011. Soros has always maintained his innocence and that he did not receive confidential information.

In addition to his philanthropic activities, Soros, through Soros Fund Management, is the primary adviser for the Quantum Group of Funds, which deal in international investments in, among others, the energy and the commodity markets.

Shortly after the agreement, the President Teodoro Obiang Nguema issued an amnesty to all those found guilty or suspected of political crimes in Equatorial Guinea, and extended an invitation to all members of the opposition in exile to return to the country.

It is unclear, however, whether this amnesty also applies to those found guilty or suspected of being involved in a series of failed coup d'etat against the current government.

The most famous of these attempts was carried out in 2004, with the involvement of Mark Thatcher, son of the late Margaret Thatcher.

According to Equatorial Guinea, the then Government of Spain was involved in the plot to violently remove Obiang from power and to replace him with Severo Moto, who has been living in exile in Spain since the early 90s.

An ongoing criminal investigation into the decades-long irregular financing of the PP - in power at the time of the 2004 coup d'etat attempt - has found that in the mid-90s the PP made regular payments in cash to Moto.

However, given the relatively modest amounts of the payments, it is generally believed that the 2004 coup was financed by other people, possibly outside of Spain, although their identities remain unknown.

In 2013 a Spanish court found Moto guilty of attempting to send weapons in 2008 from the power of Valencia to his home country.

The article originally appears on OlivePress

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov