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Britain hits five individuals with anti-graft sanctions

(A collection of luxury cars seized from Equatorial Guinea’s vice president Teodorin Obiang Nguema were auctioned off in Switzerland 2019: Britain has now announced sanctions against him and four other figures from other countries accused of corruptly plundering public funds. Photo: AFP)

LONDON, (AFP):- Britain on Thursday placed sanctions on five individuals around the world including the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, as part of its global anti-corruption regime.

The UK said it had frozen the assets of and put travel bans on the five, who are accused of syphoning off public funds in Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iraq.

“The action we have taken today targets individuals who have lined their own pockets at the expense of their citizens,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“Corruption drains the wealth of poorer nations, keeps their people trapped in poverty and poisons the well of democracy,” he said.

The Foreign Office said it was sanctioning Vice President of Equatorial Guinea Teodorin Obiang, the son of the current president, for his involvement in the misappropriation of state funds into his own personal bank accounts.

As well as making corrupt contracting arrangements and soliciting bribes, it said Obiang had splurged $500 million (425 million euros) on a private mansion in Paris, luxury cars and a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia including a $275,000 crystal-covered glove that the singer wore on his 1987-89 “Bad” tour.

Sanctions were placed on Colombian contractors Alex Nain Saab Moran and Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas for exploiting Venezuela’s public food and housing programmes and delivering goods at inflated prices.

Saab, who is reported to be close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and who has a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, is accused by the United States of pulling the strings of this embezzlement network.

Indicted in July 2019 in Miami for money laundering, he was arrested during a stop-over of his plane in Cape Verde in mid-June 2020.

The United States is demanding his extradition while Venezuela is calling for his release.

The Venezuelan foreign ministry reacted issued a statement late Thursday saying that London’s sanctions were “criminal” and “reflect the immorality of the British government which sets itself up as the world’s supposed anti-corruption judge.”

Zimbabwe’s Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei was sanctioned under the anti-corruption regime for redeeming national treasury bills at 10 times their official value.

Iraq’s Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan was targeted for misappropriating public funds intended for reconstruction efforts and supporting civilians while serving as governor of the country’s northern Nineveh province.

The measures are the second grouping of sanctions under Britain’s anti-corruption regime.

They follow sanctions in April, which targeted 22 individuals involved in serious corruption cases in Russia, South Africa, South Sudan and Latin America.

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