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184- Request for the return of property confiscated in criminal proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France)

On September 29th 2022, Equatorial Guinea (the applicant State) filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) an Application instituting proceedings against the Republic of France (the defendant State) following a dispute concerning the restitution of property confiscated in criminal proceedings in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (the Convention) to which both States are parties.

The Government of Equatorial Guinea maintains that in 2011 it acquired from Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue the entire capital of 5 companies incorporated under Swiss law. One of them held the entire capital of 2 companies operating under French law. This transfer of shares was duly registered with the Directorate General of Taxes of France in October 2011. These 2 companies had no other object than the ownership and management of buildings located in Paris.

Following a complaint dated December 2nd, 2008 by the NGO Transparency International France against Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue for acts qualified as embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, abuse of social assets, the investigating judge at the Paris Regional Court ordered the criminal seizure of the building as a precautionary measure. On July 28th, 2021, the French Court of Cassation confirmed the conviction of Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue for the offense of laundering of products, embezzlement of public funds, abuse of corporate assets and breach of trust. It also confirmed the confiscation of the building, the property that was the subject of a criminal seizure, and other movable property. The Court of Cassation validated the analysis of the Criminal Court and the Paris Court of Appeal according to which Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue had embezzled from the Equatorial Guinean Treasury and for his personal benefit public funds belonging to Equatorial Guinea, which had enabled him to acquire the confiscated property.

In September and October 2021, Equatorial Guinea requested, on the basis of the Convention (particularly Article 57), that France return certain assets corresponding to property confiscated by France by final decision of the French courts. The applicant State claims to have repeatedly requested the return of the confiscated property, without success.

Equatorial Guinea had accompanied the application instituting proceedings with a request for provisional measures to suspend the execution of the judgment ordering the sale of the building located in Paris. However, it withdrew this request.

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.