"I've been very lucky in business ... and I like to live well." -- Teodorin Obiang
We mostly stick to small-fry targets like West Hollywood politicians who green-light towering concrete atrocities and Los Angeles mayors who green-light six-foot walls around their mansions, but because 41-year-old Teodorin Obiang happens to be a resident of L.A. County's very own Malibu community and because third-world dictators are so damn hot right now, we're going to aim a little higher today.
Obiang's family heads the small African nation of Equatorial Guinea (it's a technical democracy -- like, the way Egypt was a democracy), and has a pretty bad rap around those parts. According to the UK Guardian, his father "has ruled for more than 30 years and been accused of grave human rights violations. Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at around $600m."
Might as well pile on a $380 million yacht, right?
That was the younger Obiang's thinking a couple years back, when he allegedly filed plans for a 387-foot private boat with a movie theater, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and security system worthy of James Bond (think photoelectric barriers and fingerprint door openers).
According to Global Witness, the watchdog group that broke the news this morning, "the vessel's basic design was completed by [German company Kusch Yachts] in December 2009 for $342,000 with an original delivery date set for late 2012. However, construction has not yet started."
A little more on Obiang Sr., from the Global Watch report:
Teodorin's father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, took power in 1979 following a bloody coup and presides over a repressive government almost entirely dependent on energy revenues generated by ExxonMobil, Marathon and other multinational giants and has one of the worst human rights reputations in the world. ... Equatorial Guinea enjoys a per capita income of about $37,900, one of the highest in the world. Yet 77 percent of the population falls below the poverty line, 35 percent die before the age of 40, and 58 percent lack access to safe water.
How did we know Big Oil had something to do with this?
Back in 2007, California's own upper crust found a new neighbor in Obiang when he bought a $35 million mansion in Malibu. The LA Weekly ran a story, titled "Malibu Bad Neighbor," on the mysterious silence of high-profile activists who live in the area. Only one man spoke up:
Robert E. Williams, associate professor of political science at Pepperdine [Ed note: The university is located just a few miles from Obiang's property], tried to alert Malibu papers, but never heard back from reporters. "My guess is that the small local papers don't want to explore this story, as a big part of their revenue comes from real estate advertising," Williams says.
Williams criticizes well-known real estate agent Jeff Hyland, who handled the sale, saying, "I don't think it is too much to ask realtors not to deal with dictators," and adding, "We need a greater public awareness to put pressure on Washington" so that the federal "antikleptocracy" initiative pushed by the Bush administration and Congress finally does as promised: prevent dictators from using funds drained from poor countries.
As far as we know, Obiang still owns the 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road property, a 15,000-square-foot monstrosity that overlooks the Malibu pier -- along with his $33 million jet and fleet of luxury cars. And we're sure the yacht, commissioned under the guise "Project Zen" (have thee no shame?), would have sat mighty proud in the nearby Marina Del Rey harbor.
However, in response to the investigation, Obiang's reps are claiming he was never going to go through with it. A spokeswoman for the Equatorial Guinea government told the Guardian that "the minister did not order that a yacht be built in order to supposedly pay for it. The minister requested a sketch of what building a yacht would entail, and then dismissed the idea of buying it."
Right. For what it's worth, L.A. gossip site Bossip printed the following in 2009:
According to sources close to Teodoro Nguema Obiang, he is dropping major stacks on his new girlfriend who people also believe is his cousin. It is said that he regularly spends up to $200,000 a day on frequent LA shopping sprees. The identity of his girlfriend/cousin was revealed to a store assistant, when the two were buying $70,000 in Italian designer clothes and shared the same fitting room.
You all may recall when Obiang rented Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen's 300-foot yacht, Tatoosh, for somewhere between $400,000 or $700,000. The reason, to take Eve, who he's been dating on and off again for several years, on a Christmas cruise.
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Now that the lid's off his $380 million plan, we suppose the dictator-to-be will just have to settle for a stagnant life of laying low in the Malibu slums -- that is, until Daddy Obiang needs his first-born to take over the evil family regime. Looks rough: