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Landmark trial in France highlights UK’s weakness in recovering corrupt assets

French trial of Equatorial Guinean kleptocrat begins

19th June 2017, London – The opening in France of the corruption and money-laundering trial of Teodorin Obiang, highlights the UK’s own weakness when it comes to legal proceedings against kleptocrats looking to launder their ill-gotten gains abroad.

Obiang, the Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, is accused of embezzling $200 million of state assets. The case represents the first of its kind and results from a decade-long campaign by Transparency International France and Sherpa, alongside other civil society organisations.

The UK is yet to see a case of this scale go to court despite £4.2 billion worth of London property bought with suspicious wealth having been identified by Transparency International. A single house in Hampstead, remains the only asset seized by UK authorities from corrupt leaders from Arab Spring states.

New powers brought into law in April 2017 represent a possible turning point in the UK’s fight against corrupt wealth being laundered through the UK. These “Unexplained Wealth Orders” will empower UK law enforcement agencies to target corrupt money flowing into the UK and more easily return it to those from whom it has been stolen.

Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK, said:

“We pay tribute to our colleagues at Transparency International France for their great efforts to get this case to trial. The process has involved nearly a decade of legal battles and it is a testament to the dedication of those involved that the case has finally come to trial. It also highlights the difficulties faced around the world – including the UK – in recovering stolen assets and bringing corrupt individuals to justice.”

“It’s now the turn of the UK to step up to the plate, using the Unexplained Wealth Orders that have just come into law. The UK needs to show political will to ensure law enforcement agencies have the political backing and resources to make full use of these new powers. We have identified £4.2 billion worth property representing low-hanging fruit and expect a significant dent to be made in this in the first 12 months of UWOs coming into being.”

“France has set the standard and the UK must now follow suit if it is to be taken seriously in the global fight against corrupt money”.



Dominic Kavakeb (Transparency International UK)
+4420 3096 7696

Anne Boisse (Transparency International France)
+33 (0) 1 86 95 36 01


Read 174 times Last modified on Tuesday, 20 June 2017 11:46

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