By Hillel Aron
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Hyland, of Hilton and Hyland, who is past president of the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors and former director of the California Association of Realtors, and whose Web site declares that he’s got “ability and sensitivity in selling high-end real estate,” did not return inquiries made by the Weekly. Yet records show he earned 4 percent on the deal, which would translate into a staggering $1.4 million. Teodorin Obiang Mangue’s lawyer, George I. Nagler, and the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors also did not return phone calls.
What came to Little Teodoro so easily in Malibu was denied him in New York. A few years ago, when he sought to buy a stunning apartment on Fifth Avenue, he was kept out by the homeowners’ association, which found him unsuitable.
CRITICS IN OTHER COUNTRIES have focused intensive investigative efforts on Little Teodoro’s real estate purchases. When he bought two luxurious homes in Cape Town, South Africa, two years ago, he didn’t use his own name on the deeds — but a prominent South African attorney, Chris Schoeman, was soon after him anyway.
Schoeman, who is pursuing “foreign sovereign debts” in a civil case aimed at liquidating Little Teodoro’s two homes on behalf of a client allegedly cheated by him, believes Teodorin Obiang Mangue bought the 15,000-square-foot Sweetwater Mesa Road mansion, private four-hole golf course, pools and ocean-view lands with money stolen from the treasury of Equatorial Guinea.
“The purchase of the Malibu property supports our contention that the ruling kleptocracy in Equatorial Guinea is happy to continue plundering the national coffers,” Schoeman told the Weekly. Obiang Mangue’s assets in South Africa were frozen pending a decision by South Africa’s high court in February.
Teodorin Obiang Mangue told the court in South Africa he kept his name off his real estate documents because: “I did not wish my name to be associated with the properties in any way is [sic] concerned . . . because I did not want the newsmakers, journalists and photographers to know where I lived in Cape Town . . . for the simple reason I did not wish to be pestered by photographers, etc., invading my privacy whenever I was in Cape Town.”
His desire for privacy — photos of him, for example, are exceedingly rare — has clearly worked better in Malibu.
According to one resident near Serra Road, nobody got the word about Teodorin. “This is the first I’ve heard about it,” says a woman who was afraid to give her name, saying, “Those African dictators play by a different standard.” Nor did the Malibu sheriff’s station know Obiang Mangue was in the area. “We do not hear anything unless there is trouble,” says Deputy Shawn Brownell, with community relations.
Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin says she was “certainly unaware of this particular transaction,” but says that regardless of U.S. antikleptocracy laws, “cities do not have the authority to preclude individuals from buying property and moving into a city. The purchase of residential property is a private transaction.”
According to incorporation filings, Little Teodoro Obiang Mangue used the newly formed Sweetwater Mesa LLC to buy the estate, and is also the owner behind Sweetwater Malibu LLC and Sweetwater Management Inc. He started TNO Records and TNO Entertainment — TNO as in Teodoro Nguema Obiang, producing two techno records in 2003, but nothing since.
Although he didn’t feature her on his two albums, he dated Grammy-winning rapper and Barbershop actress Eve for years, but she broke with him amid rumors published in New York and foreign media that his father was a cannibal — ghoulish tales told by refugees fleeing the nation.
“There is no proof of cannibalism, but there are plenty of rumors,” Dr. Sarah Wykes of Global Witness in London told the Weekly. Wykes has followed the Obiangs for years, and says, “I think Obiang is happy to entertain these rumors in order to keep people in fear.” (The claim is that the president ate the heart and brain of his uncle, the infamously bloodthirsty Francisco Nguema, after overthrowing him as president in 1979.)
In recent years, President Obiang has been the focus of investigations by the CIA, the United Nations, Amnesty International, Global Witness, Transparency International and others, which Wykes says have unearthed ample evidence of murder, torture, imprisonment of political opponents and other human-rights abuses.
Amnesty International found that political opponents are routinely imprisoned and ordinary people thrown out of their homes without warning, to make room for “urban development” by the Obiangs. Transparency International rates Equatorial Guinea 152nd out of 159 countries on its human-rights index, listing it one of the worst for family-controlled government corruption. Sex trafficking and child labor reported by the CIA in 2006 are so extensive that Equatorial Guinea ranks at the bottom of the U.N.’s Human Development Index, below Kazakhstan, Syria and Algeria.
Watchdog groups and experts estimate the loot siphoned off by the Obiang family ranges from $300 million to $800 million — per year.
AGAINST THE BACKDROP of the misery of the people of Equatorial Guinea, Little Teodoro is a big spender. He globetrots from London to Paris, Cape Town to Los Angeles, and air-shipped his Bentley from London to Los Angeles, according to foreign newspapers. When he’s in Europe, tabloids gossip about his partying with Russian beauties. According to Harper’s Magazine, one Christmas weekend he spent nearly $700,000 to rent billionaire Paul Allen’s 300-foot yacht, Tatoosh, to entertain rapper Eve — only to have her airlifted to shore after an argument.