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Equatorial Guinea Vice President’s Superyacht, Properties Seized in South Africa

FILE - bTeodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 30, 2015.
FILE - bTeodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 30, 2015.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — A South African court this week seized a superyacht and two properties of Equatorial Guinea's vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.

The property is expected to be auctioned to pay a South African businessman who sued him for wrongful arrest and torture after an airline deal went wrong. The vice president is also the son and presumed successor Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, who rules the country with an iron fist.

South African businessman Daniel Janse van Rensburg says he welcomes the seizure of the yacht and properties.

He says the case has been going on in South Africa since 2016, adding that with every ruling, Vice President Obiang, also known as Teodorin, files an appeal.

It all began more than a decade ago, when Janse van Resnburg says he was asked by Gabriel Angabi, then mayor of Equatorial Guinea’s capital city, to set up a private airline for the central African nation. Janse van Rensburg says he worked on the deal for two years but in 2013 Angabi called it off and said he wanted his money back.

“And that is when he phoned Teodorin junior, he was at that time the minister of security and in charge of the jail. So, he got authorization from him to put me into Black Beach,” he said.

That is the name of the jail in Equatorial Guinea where the South African spent nearly two years. He explains why he sued Vice President Obiang and not Angabi.

“Because he was responsible for having me put into jail and keeping me there as well," he said. "You know we have documentation from the South African embassy in Malabo to prove this, that they asked him a few times to speak to him, to ask him to look at this and to set me free and he always kept on refusing.”

Rensburg has published a book about life in prison called Black Beach. He says the prison was overcrowded, filthy and a breeding ground for diseases.

“He put women and children in there. There was a little boy of 11 years that was in there for stealing just a mango. It was just by the grace of God that I actually did survive. You know there’s some really horrific things that happen there: torture and abuse, sexual abuse,” he said.

Eventually, the lawyer of a fellow inmate got Rensburg out.

He came home to South Africa and opened the case in 2016. Although Obiang’s lawyers are trying to block the auction of the properties and the superyacht, Rensburg says he hopes this is the end.

Security Expert Willem Els explains that Obiang junior, 54, has been on the wrong side of the law in several countries like the United States, France, Britain and Switzerland.

Els says his lavish lifestyle catches the attention of financial intelligence units who look for signs of money laundering and proceeds from illegal activities.

“What we talking about is the looting of the resources of the country. You know if you go to Equatorial Guinea it’s one of the poorest countries in Africa even though they’ve got all these resources. So that means that the wealth of the oil, the revenue that is coming into the country is not channeled and used for the benefit of the country but rather for the political elite,” he said.

Equatorial Guinea's government has not yet commented on the seizure of the vice president’s properties. When VOA called the country’s embassy in Pretoria Thursday, no one answered.