By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In U.S. Senate hearings in 2004, Exxon Mobil was criticized for failing to be forthcoming about its investments in Equatorial Guinea. But executive vice president Andrew P. Swiger did admit that his firm co-owns an energy company, Abayak, in partnership with “the first lady of Equatorial Guinea.” According to Swiger’s testimony, Exxon Mobil pays first lady Constancia Mangue de Obiang 15 percent of all revenue from Abayak.
The hearings were conducted after congressional investigations into Riggs Bank, where former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet funneled money, as did the Obiangs. Bank records show that $718 million was deposited in 30 different Obiang family and government accounts there. Riggs Bank was fined $16 million, and collapsed after the scandal, but the Obiang funds were released and transferred to offshore accounts.
Chris Schoeman, the South African lawyer, has asked American oil companies to make public their arrangements with the Obiangs, but, not surprisingly, has received no responses. Exxon Mobil answered the Weekly by e-mailing an opening statement by Swiger from the hearings in 2004.
He may find some political traction, particularly with Levin, who in the 2004 hearings declared to Exxon Mobil’s Swiger: “I have to tell you, I do not see any fundamental difference between dealing with an Obiang and dealing with a Saddam Hussein.” Schoeman wants the U.S. to confiscate Teodorin’s Malibu estate on grounds that he bought it using tainted money in violation of the Bush administration’s anticorruption laws.
But getting action from the U.S. government might be a greater challenge even than waking up the wealthy and often politically hypersensitive residents who live behind two guard shacks, sharing their exclusive domain with a dictator in training.
“Our promotion of human rights and democracy is in keeping with America’s most cherished principles and it helps to lay the foundation for lasting peace in the world,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a speech on human rights in 2006.
Shortly after that, she welcomed her “good friend” President Teodoro Obiang to Washington on an official state visit.
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