THE HAGUE - Equatorial Guinea on Monday called on the United Nations' highest court to urgently order France to halt a criminal case against the son of the African nation's leader on charges of misspending millions of euros of public funds, arguing that he is immune from prosecution.
The hearing at the International Court of Justice comes a week before Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Equatorial Guinea's vice president, is scheduled to appear before a French court to answer the charges. He is accused of acquiring real estate, luxury cars, art and other goods in France with public funds from his country.
"The immunity of a person holding high-ranking office in Equatorial Guinea has been ignored and — worse still — the charges against the vice president have reached the final phase of the proceedings,'' lawyer Maurice Kamto told the world court. "He is open to the risk of judgment and conviction at any time.''
The French case is part of a long-running corruption probe targeting the acquisition of properties in France by the leaders of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Republic of Congo, alleging that they used public funds to enrich themselves.
The hearings Monday also focused on a property on Paris' swanky Avenue Foch which Equatorial Guinea argues is its embassy but faces the possibility of being confiscated and sold as part of the French prosecution, a move that Kamto said would infringe "the sovereignty, honor and dignity of Equatorial Guinea.''
Equatorial Guinea filed a case with the world court earlier this year arguing that France breached international law by ignoring Obiang's immunity and the diplomatic immunity of the Avenue Foch property. It is now requesting urgent action to halt the Paris trial while the world court case continues.
France is due to address the world court Tuesday.