WASHINGTON (CN) - The son of the president of Equatorial Guinea refuses to return a $38 million jet he bought with money he stole through companies that harvest his country's natural resources, the United States says. The federal complaint is replete with tales of extravagant expenditures by the spoiled son, including "eight Ferraris, seven Rolls-Royces, five Bentleys, four Mercedes, a Porsche, two Lamborghinis and an Aston Martin" and $275,000 for one of Michael Jackson's gloves.
The Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Criminal Division, sued the Gulfstream G-V Jet, in a rather lurid, 24-page complaint that describes the pampered life of the son of the longtime president.
The jet was bought from Blue Sapphire Services and is believed to be in Equatorial Guinea. The entity that bought it is called Ebony Shine International, but its true beneficiary is the president's son, according to the complaint.
The United States sued the jet, seeking forfeiture in rem.
Though not named as defendants, key players in the lawsuit are Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo, who seized power in a 1979 coup - which overthrew his uncle - and the president's son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.
Equatorial Guinea has become a major oil and gas producer since the 1990s. It is the third-largest oil and gas producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, and with a population of only 680,000, and rule by a corrupt "Inner Circle," the "billions of dollars in annual revenue" from oil and gas has gone a long way - but not to everyone, Uncle Sam says.
The president's son, Obiang Mangue, is the minister of Forestry and Agriculture, and "the beneficial owner of the defendant aircraft," but his official title doesn't tell the tale. The real players in Equatorial Guinea are the "Inner Circle: a small number of individuals who hold critical positions of political and economic power," according to the complaint.
"During President Obiang's more than 30-year rule, members of the Inner Circle have amassed extraordinary wealth through a variety of corrupt schemes."
The president's son, a member of the Inner Circle, was well taken care of: "In 1991, at the age of 23, Nguema came to the United States to study English as a Second Language at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California," the complaint states. "He did not live on campus; instead, he shuttled between rooms at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and a house he rented in Malibu. After five months, he dropped out of the program. His tuition and living expenses (including his hotel bill and the rental of the house in Malibu) were paid by an American Oil company operating in Equatorial Guinea."
Dropping out of college didn't hurt him, though. His father gave him concessions to harvest 88,000 acres of rainforest - National Forests - and also made him Minister of Forestry, and junior was on his way, "to enrich himself through corrupt schemes in the timber industry," according to the complaint.
Then President Obiang gave Mangue control of the country's infrastructure development, which allowed him to award his company multimillion-dollar government contracts for road construction, according to the complaint.
The young heir apparent extorted millions from companies doing business in Equatorial Guinea, refusing to sign approvals for timber exports unless the exporter pays a "tax" for his personal benefit, the complaint states.