Equatorial Guinea fury as Brazil seizes $16m from visiting delegation

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president of Equatorial Guinea addresses the UN in New York. Equatorial Guinea has accused Brazilian authorities of conducting an illegal search and seizure of the contents of suitcases belonging to a delegation that included the African country’s vice president. (AP Photo)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Equatorial Guinea fury as Brazil seizes $16m from visiting delegation

  • Federal police found $1.5 million in cash in one bag and watches worth an estimated $15 million in another
  • Brazilian law prohibits people from entering the country with more than 10,000 reais, or about $2,400, in cash

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea: The tiny West African state of Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday demanded Brazil hand back more than $16 million in cash and luxury watches that border officials confiscated from a delegation accompanying the president’s son.
Foreign Minister Simeon Oyono Esono Angue denounced the seizure as “paltry and unfriendly behavior” and demanded the items be returned, state television TVGE said.
Teodorin Nguema Obiang, vice president of Equatorial Guinea and son of its longtime ruler, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, arrived Friday on a private plane at Viracapos airport near Sao Paulo as part of an 11-person delegation.
Federal police found $1.5 million (1.28 million euros) in cash in one bag and watches worth an estimated $15 million in another, O Estado de Sao Paulo reported.
Brazilian law prohibits people from entering the country with more than 10,000 reais, or about $2,400, in cash.
“The vice president was on a private trip to Brazil,” the Brazilian ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, Evalde Freire, who was called in to the foreign ministry in Malago, told TVGE on Monday.
“All international travelers are subjected to national airport procedures, where customs and police do their job,” Freire said.
O Estado de Sao Paulo quoted a diplomatic source from Equatorial Guinea as saying the money was to pay for medical treatment Obiang was to undergo in Sao Paulo.
The watches were for his “personal use” and engraved with his initials, the report said.
Obiang junior, 49, was sentenced in France to a three-year suspended term in October 2017 for money-laundering.
He has visited Brazil several times, attending the 2015 Carnival in Rio de Janeiro when a samba school won top honors for a Equatorial Guinea-themed parade but was heavily criticized because its was allegedly funded by the Obiang regime.
Obiang senior, 76, seized power by ousting his own uncle, the first post-independence president Francisco Macias Nguema, who was then shot by firing squad.
He won a fifth seven-year term in 2016 with nearly 94 percent of the ballot. General elections last November saw his party win 92 percent of the vote. Both elections have been criticized as fraudulent.
Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents as well as election fraud and corruption.
Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers, but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.


Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

Updated 21 November 2018
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Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

  • hey are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony, and could be jailed for up to five years
  • Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Four Finns have been arrested on a holiday island in Muslim-majority Malaysia for allegedly distributing pamphlets about Christianity, police said Wednesday, and may face up to five years in jail.
Religion is a deeply sensitive issue in Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of the populaton is Muslim, and critics say rising conservatism has chipped away at a traditionally tolerant brand of Islam in recent years.
Authorities detained the two men and two women on Tuesday after receiving complaints from members of the public that they were handing out Christian materials on the popular resort island of Langkawi, said local police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrahim.
“Police have arrested four Finnish nationals in Langkawi for allegedly distributing religious material in a public place,” he told AFP.
“They were distributing pamphlets related to Christianity.”
The Finns, aged between 27 and 60, were arrested at a hotel and police seized pens, notebooks and a bag.
They are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony. If found guilty, they could be jailed for between two and five years.
The suspects have been remanded in custody while police investigate.
Langkawi, a jungle-clad island in northwest Malaysia, attracts millions of tourists to its palm-fringed beaches every year.
Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, has sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who have long complained about rising Islamization.
In 2010, three churches were attacked with firebombs, causing major damage to one, as Muslims sought to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.”
Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia, which witnessed deadly riots between members of the majority Malay community and ethnic Chinese in 1969.