The U.S. government is involved in a legal battle to stop Michael Jackson’s gem-encrusted glove falling into the hands of an African dictator’s son.
The late singer’s glove was allegedly bought with dirty money by Equatorial Guinea President’s son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the U.S. claims.
Assets worth about $71 million were seized in April 2011 from Obiang, who owns a fleet of Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as well as $38 million private jet and $30 million Malibu mansion.
The 42-year-old, who moved to the U.S. in 1991, allegedly laundered stolen public funds in banks across the world, according to Sky News.
The aspiring rap musician bought Jackson’s glove three years ago along with other items from the late singer’s estate.
France has also moved to seize assets from the dictator’s son, including a $68 million Paris mansion he bought, along with his $2 million wine collection, according to the New York Times.
The Paris mansion had 101 rooms, including a Turkish bath, hair salon, nightclub and movie theater.
Bathrooms were described as dripping in gold and jewel-encrusted fixtures and French police also found and seized 11 supercars, including two Bugatti Veyrons which are among the most powerful and expensive cars in the world.
More than 70 per cent of Equatorial Guinea’s population lives in poverty, but President Obiang and those closely associated with him have amassed huge fortunes through corruption, the U.S. claims.
According to the lawsuit, Obiang, who was appointed forestry minister by his father, ‘amassed over $300 million in net worth, all while earning an income of less than $100,000 per year as an unelected public official appointed by his father,’ Sky News reported.
The lawsuit lists assets he is said to own in the U.S. which, as well as Jackson’s glove, include seven life-size statues of the singer in a collection worth $494,000.
His Malibu mansion, off the Pacific Coast Highway, has a golf course, tennis courts and two swimming pools, and Obiang is also said to have a fleet of cars including a Ferrari worth more than $500,000, according to Time.
A California judge threw out the case last year, saying it failed to prove the fortune had been amassed through illegal means in Equatorial Guinea.
The hearing on Monday is an amended version of the complaint.
Obiang has been made Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President and part of the country’s mission to Unesco, in a move said to be an attempt to offer him diplomatic immunity, the New York Times said.
Lawyers for Obiang argued in a brief that the U.S. has no grounds to retain the Jackson memoribilia.
Obiang Jr’s lawyers argued in a brief filed last month that the US still has no grounds to retain his pop souvenirs.
‘The government still has not identified a single victim of extortion or bribery,’ it said. ‘All that the government has is evidence that [the] Claimant spent money. Where the money came from is a matter of pure speculation.’