About $27 million in assets seized from the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea — including an array of Michael Jackson memorabilia — will help pay for Covid-19 vaccines and other medical supplies in the African nation.
The money comes from a civil forfeiture settlement with the Equatorial Guinea VP, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who was accused of purchasing items in the United States with money obtained through corruption (Mangue — who is also the son of Equatorial Guinea’s longtime president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo — has disputed the claims.) While the forfeiture agreement between the U.S. and Mangue was struck in 2014, a DOJ deal with the United Nations for the purchase and distribution of medical supplies wasn’t announced until Monday, September 20th.
Civil forfeiture is a procedure that allows law enforcement to seize assets from people they believe are responsible for crimes. The seized items then become defendants in legal proceedings, which is why the case involving Mangue came to be dubbed, in part, United States v. One Michael Jackson Signed Thriller Jacket.
The DOJ has alleged that, back in 2011, when Mangue was serving as the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, he made a salary of under $100,000 but used his “position and influence” to amass over $300 million in assets through corruption and money laundering. The 2014 settlement agreement required Mangue to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various items of Jackson memorabilia.
It’s unclear, however, which pieces of Jackson memorabilia seized from Mangue were sold as part of the settlement. A 2014 report from CNN noted that Mangue would get to keep most of his collection, including the jewel-encrusted glove the pop star wore on his Bad tour. Per court documents detailing the 2014 settlement, the U.S. government said it would “take responsibility for selling” what were described as “Michael Jackson Neverland Ranch Life Size Statues.”