Teodoro Nguema Obiang had been called in for questioning by financial fraud squad officers over allegations of embezzling state funds, money laundering and breach of trust, in Paris on Wednesday.
When the 41-year-old, known as Teodorin or TNO, failed to show up, Roger Le Loire, the judge heading the unprecedented French investigations into the assets of three African heads of state and their families, immediately issued an arrest warrant.
Police seized a fleet of luxury cars, worth around €5m (£4m), in a raid on Obiang’s five-storey home on Avenue Foch, near the Champs Elysées last October. The mansion boasts a disco, spa room, hair salon, gold and jewel encrusted taps and balcony views of the Arc de Triomphe.
Obiang is also under investigation on similar accusations in the US where $70m (£45m) of his assets including a private jet, yachts, cars and Michael Jackson memorabilia were seized last year. In June, the US justice department filed court papers alleging he spent $315m on property and luxury goods between 2004 and 2011.
In Paris, Obiang’s fleet of sports cars, including a Maserati and an Aston Martin, did not go unnoticed by neighbors.
In February one told The Guardian: “The noise-factor was extreme. He seemed obsessed with security so when he wanted to go out between midnight and 2am, he’d order the chauffeur to warm up four cars so no one knew which he’d take. Can you imagine the noise of Ferraris, Porsches and Maseratis all running at once? Then he’d come down and decide to take a fifth car and that would have to be started.”
The so-called “ill-gotten gains” investigation is targeting three African leaders and their families on suspicions they embezzled state funds and squirreled away around €160m worth of assets in France invested in bank accounts, Riviera villas and luxury cars. The targets are Gabon’s late leader Omar Bongo and his son Ali Bongo, the country’s current leader; the Congo-Brazzaville president, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and his relatives; and Equatorial Guinean’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and family.
All have denied building up personal wealth in France through embezzlement, money-laundering and misuse of public funds.
In May, Teodoro Nguema Obiang was named 2nd vice-president in charge of defense and security and is expected to succeed his father who has ruled with an since the 1979 coup.