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The U.S. government may soon own one of Michael Jackson's white gloves, a $530,000 Ferrari and a $30 million Malibu estate if it succeeds in seizing them from the son of a corrupt African dictator.
In a case kept hidden from public view until last week, the U.S. Department of Justice says it's pursuing more than $32 million in assets from Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, whose father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 32 years -- and has been accused by authorities around the world of illicitly siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and his family.
A 2010 U.S. Senate report detailed how Obiang the younger, known as Teodorin, had moved $110 million into the United States through shell companies and anonymous transactions, propping up a hard-partying lifestyle that included spending $30 million on one of Malibu's largest mansions and a $38.5 million Gulfstream V jet. Obiang was also known to collect supercars like they were Hot Wheels, with at least 32 cars and motorcycles at one point, including eight Ferraris, two Bugatti Veyrons and a $2 million Maserati.
While the U.S. Department of Justice has said a probe into Obiang had been ongoing since 2004, the first signs of legal trouble for Obiang came from France, where authorities seized 11 of his cars last month, including the $2 million Maserati MC-12. While the Justice Department had sought seven cars from Obiang in California, its latest request mentions only one -- a 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO.
The documents unsealed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles offer the first glimpse of the case built by the Justice against Obiang, accusing him of spending more than $100 million garnered from extortion and embezzlement in Equatorial Guinea. The feds also revealed how Obiang bought $3.2 million worth of memorabilia from Michael Jackson's estate earlier this year, including the white crystal-studded glove Jackson wore on the "Bad" tour, the MTV Music Video Award for "We Are The World" and several of the life-size figurines Jackson used to keep at his Neverland Ranch.
So far, no representatives of Obiang's has officially responded to the government's bid, and the Justice Department has not yet responded to a request for comment from Yahoo! Autos. Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group long critical of inaction against the Obiang family, has called on the United States and other countries to move against the clan despite their control over a key oil supply.
“The move to freeze Teodorín’s assets in the U.S. is overdue,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “But the real test will be if the U.S. government vigorously pursues the inquiry to its conclusion without letting diplomatic or business ties stand in the way.”
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