Court fight to keep dictator's hands off Jacko's glove

The US government says the late singer’s stage prop was bought with dirty money

Los Angeles

British Jane Austen enthusiasts may have got their petticoats in a twist trying to prevent the author’s jewellery falling into the wrong (i.e. American) hands.

But the US, too, is engaged in a battle to retain an item belonging to one of its own cultural icons – which may yet slip on to the fingers of an equally unwelcome recipient.

On Monday, a Los Angeles courtroom will host the latest hearing in a long-running case: “United States of America v. One White Crystal-Covered ‘Bad Tour’ Glove and Other Michael Jackson Memorabilia.”

For the past 28 months, the US has been trying to keep hold of a glove once worn on stage by the late Michael Jackson, which was bought following the singer’s death by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the playboy son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In April 2011, the government seized about $71m (£45m) worth of assets belonging to Obiang Jr, who owns a car collection including Bentleys, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, and Ferraris; a $38m private Gulfstream jet; and a house overlooking Surfrider beach in Malibu, California, worth some $30m.

Despite the West African country’s wealth of natural resources, more than 70 per cent of Equatorial Guinea’s population lives in poverty. Yet President Obiang and his cohorts have amassed substantial fortunes through bribery and corruption, the US claims. According to the government’s lawsuit, the dictator’s son, who was elevated to the role of forestry minister by his father, has “amassed over $300m in net worth, all while earning an income of less than $100,000 per year as an unelected public official appointed by his father.”

Obiang Jr first moved to the US in 1991, enrolling at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where he is said to have been funded by an American oil firm that operated in his home country. The 42-year-old music fan is alleged to have laundered stolen public funds in banks across the globe. In 2010, the aspiring rap music mogul used some of his vast wealth to acquire a selection of ephemera from the Michael Jackson estate, including the white, gem-encrusted glove at the heart of the case.

Last year, the French authorities seized a Parisian mansion worth €80 (£68m) belonging to Obiang Jr, where they found millions more in luxury goods and cars. In April 2012, however, a California judge threw out the US government’s case, saying it had failed to prove that Obiang Jr had amassed his fortune by means illegal in Equatorial Guinea, where he had never been charged with any crime.

The US has now been permitted to file an amended version of its complaint, but, in a brief filed last month, Obiang Jr’s lawyers argue that the US still has no grounds to retain possession of their client’s prized pop souvenirs. “The government still has not identified a single victim of extortion or bribery,” the brief contends. “In short, all that the government has is evidence that [the] Claimant spent money. Where the money came from is a matter of pure speculation.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?