Equatorial Guinea slams French move against leader's son

Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:41am GMT

MALABO, March 30 (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea on Friday condemned as a provocation a move by French judges to seek the arrest of the son of its president on money laundering charges and warned Paris it considered retaliating.

A judicial source told Reuters on March 27 that two French judges were seeking an international arrest warrant for the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The judges consider there are grounds to suspect the son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is agriculture minister in the oil-rich central African country, acquired real estate in France by fraudulent means.

In a sharply worded statement, Equatorial Guinea's government recalled an abortive foreign-backed 2004 coup bid against Obiang Nguema's government, saying the move against the son, widely known as "Teodorin", was an "open provocation".

"If France wants a rupture of relations with the Equatorial Guinean State, unilaterally, they should state it clearly," the statement said.

It said the government "reserves the right to reciprocate", saying that French companies in Equatorial Guinea would feel the "negative consequences" of the French actions.

The warrant will not be released until a prosecutor has reviewed the request and decides whether to proceed.

Obiang has ruled the former Spanish colony for more than three decades, making him the longest-serving African leader following the demise of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. Rights groups have long accused his government of corruption.

Equatorial Guinea is the third biggest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola. Despite its oil wealth most of its population still live in poverty.   Continued...

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