Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue,  the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, moved more than $110 million in suspect funds into U.S. accounts

Foreign officials with potential corruption links are exploiting weaknesses in federal anti-money-laundering safeguards to move millions of dollars into U.S. bank accounts and properties, according to a Senate report released Thursday.


The officials, known internationally as “politically exposed persons,” are aided by lawyers, banks, escrow and real estate agents, lobbyists and others who didn’t report or weren’t required to question transactions, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report alleges.

“For the United States, which has so much riding on global stability, corruption is a direct threat to our national interests,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the panel chairman. “If we want to credibly lead efforts to stop illegal money abroad, we’ve got to stop it here at home, as well.”

Examples to be cited at a panel hearing include:

•Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, 40, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, moved more than $110 million in suspect funds into U.S. accounts from 2002 to 2008. Two American lawyers allowed him to use law office accounts as conduits. Two real estate agents helped him buy California properties, including a $30 million Malibu home.

Although Obiang is being investigated, his intermediaries didn’t have to report the deals.

•Omar Bongo, the president of Gabon until his death last year, used an American lobbyist to buy six U.S.-built armored vehicles and get American authorization to buy six C-130 military cargo aircraft from Saudi Arabia from 2003 through 2007. The deals did not require reporting.

One U.S. bank branch belatedly closed the account of his daughter, Yamilee Bongo-Astier, after discovering she had $1 million in shrink-wrapped $100 bills in her safe-deposit box. She said her father used diplomatic status to bring the money into the country without reporting it.

•Jennifer Douglas, an American citizen and the fourth wife of former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar, helped her husband bring more than $40 million into U.S. accounts from 2000 to 2008.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a 2008 civil complaint that accused Douglas of receiving $2 million in bribes from Siemens, a major German firm. Although she has denied wrongdoing, Siemens has admitted in U.S. criminal and civil court cases to having made the payments.

•Angolan arms dealer Pierre Falcone used accounts at an Arizona bank to bring millions of dollars into the U.S. and move it worldwide. He was convicted in France in 2007 and 2009 on charges related to arms dealing and money laundering.

The report recommended requiring banks to screen customers through reliable databases of politically exposed persons and requiring lawyers to certify that attorney-client and legal accounts won’t aid suspicious activities by foreign officials.

Via USA Today