Sunday, February 07, 2010

More Corruption

Further to the previous blog , Socialist Banner's attention was drawn to yet another article on Africa's corruption and Western complicity .

A US Senate report says that, in 2007, President Omar Bongo of Gabon brought $1m in shrink-wrapped $100 notes into the US in a suitcase; that Teodoro Obiang, son of Equatorial Guinea's president, moved "more than $100m in suspect funds through US bank accounts, including $30m to purchase a residence in Malibu"; and that, between 2000 and 2008, Jennifer Douglas, fourth wife of a former Nigerian vice-president, "helped her husband bring more than $40m in suspect funds into the US".

Several African leaders, their relatives and associates use Western banks, including British ones, to move hundreds of millions of dollars out of their countries and into accounts and companies they controlled. The banks through which these funds were channelled include Bank of America, Citibank Private Bank and HSBC.The report also says that a number of US professionals – lawyers, lobbyists, and estate agents – were used "to funnel millions of dollars in illicit money into the United States". It adds, in remarkably forthright language for an official report, that "politically powerful foreign officials, and those close to them, have found ways to use the US financial system to protect and enhance their ill-gotten gains".

Teodoro Obiang,is now the subject of a US criminal investigation. His salary, as minister of agriculture and forestry, is $60,000 a year. Yet, between 2004 and 2008, according to the senate report, he moved "more than $100m in suspect funds through US bank accounts, including $30m to purchase a residence in Malibu and $38.5m to purchase an aircraft". The home was the sixth most expensive home bought in the US that year, and Mr Obiang's spending did not stop there. Two US lawyers set up shell companies for Mr Obiang, and the report lists some transactions through an account for one of them, called Beautiful Vision, at Bank of America. In one four-week period in late 2004, cheques made out included: $82,900 to Naurelle Furniture; $137,312 to Ferrari of Beverly Hills; a further $332,243 to Ferrari; $80,287 to Gucci; $59,850 to "Soofer Gallery Rugs"; and a total of $338, 523 to Lamborghini Beverly Hills. Further cheques in the first half of 2005 were: $55,193 to Dolce & Gabbana, and $58,500 for the installation of a Bang & Olufsen home cinema system.
Back in West Africa despite Equatorial Guinea being sub-Saharan Africa's third biggest oil producer, life expectancy for men is only a fraction more than 50 years, and the infant mortality rate is 12 times worse than in the US.
Omar Bongo died in 2009 and his place was taken by his son, Ali. Both men, says the report, "amassed substantial wealth while in office, amid the extreme poverty of its citizens". US investigators discovered that Ali Bongo's wife, Inge Lynn Collins Bongo, formed a US trust in her maiden name, opened accounts in its name in California and used them to receive "multiple large offshore wire transfers... and used the funds to support a lavish lifestyle and move money along a network of bank and securities accounts benefiting her and her husband".

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