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May 22, 2012 2:54 pm
DAKAR, May 22 – Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea, has promoted his farms and forestry minister son, who is wanted in France for alleged money laundering, to deputy prime minister, a government statement said on Tuesday.
The promotion was part of a cabinet reshuffle and reform of the constitution which critics of the oil-rich west African state believe is aimed at ensuring a future handover of power to Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, widely known as “Teodorin”.
The reform notably creates a vice-president position which Teodorin is tipped to fill in the future. The statement on the government website said the first holder of the new post would be Ignacio Milam Tang, prime minister since 2009.
A French prosecutor last month approved an investigator’s request for an international arrest warrant for Teodorin over suspicions he had bought real estate in France with public money embezzled from Equatorial Guinea.
Teodorin has denied wrongdoing and says his wealth – which has allowed him to purchase luxury real estate in Paris and Malibu, a private jet and exotic sports cars – was amassed legitimately through successful business dealings.
French investigators seized the sports cars in September, but a US judge ruled last month that prosecutors there would need to come up with more proof of wrongdoing to seize certain of his US assets.
Lawyers for Teodorin have warned France the legal action could hurt trade and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The Mr Obiang, 79, has been in power for 33 years. Despite the country’s oil wealth, much of the population lives in poverty and it was ranked among “the worst of the worst” civil liberty abusers in democracy group Freedom House’s 2011 survey.
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