The US government is embroiled in a legal battle to stop a gem-encrusted glove worn by Michael Jackson falling into the hands of an African dictator’s son.
The late singer’s glove was bought with dirty money by Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the US claims.
The latest hearing in the 28-month-old case – “United States of America v One White Crystal-Covered ‘Bad Tour’ Glove and Other Michael Jackson Memorabilia” – will be heard in a Los Angeles courtroom on Monday.
In April 2011, US authorities seized assets worth some $71m (£45m) from Obiang Jr, who owns a collection of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, a $38m (£25m) private jet, and a $30m (£20m) mansion in Malibu, California.
More than 70% of Equatorial Guinea’s population lives in poverty, but President Obiang and his cohorts have amassed huge fortunes through corruption, the US claims.
According to Washington’s lawsuit, Obiang Jr, who was appointed 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, 42, who first moved to America in 1991, is alleged to have laundered stolen public funds in banks across the globe.
Three years ago, the aspiring rap music mogul bought a number of items from Michael Jackson’s estate, including the glove.
Last year, the French government seized a £68m mansion in Paris belonging to Obiang Jr, where they found millions more in luxury goods and cars, according to The Independent.
However, in April 2012, a California judge threw out the US government’s case, saying it had failed to prove that Obiang Jr had amassed his fortune by illegal means in Equatorial Guinea, where he had never been charged with any crime.
The US has now been allowed to file an amended version of its complaint.
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,” the papers said.
“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.”
The Thriller singer died in Los Angeles in 2009 from an overdose of the surgical anaesthetic propofol.