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World court refuses to block trial of Equatorial Guinea VP

December 7, 2016 GMT

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The corruption trial of the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president can go ahead next month after the United Nations’ highest court on Wednesday refused to order France to halt the prosecution.

Equatorial Guinea filed a case with the International Court of Justice earlier this year, arguing that Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue has immunity from prosecution because of his position as vice president. The African nation then asked for so-called “provisional measures” blocking the French trial until the completion of the world court case — a process that could take months or years.

But the world court ruled Wednesday it did not have jurisdiction in the dispute centered on Obiang’s immunity and could not issue a ruling.

The trial is due to start in Paris Jan. 2, with Obiang facing charges including corruption, money laundering and embezzlement.

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The Hague-based court did however rule that France must treat a swanky mansion on one of Paris’ most upscale avenues as Equatorial Guinea’s diplomatic mission. The building has in the past been searched by French authorities as part of their money laundering investigation.

The French case highlighted details of the lavish lifestyle of Obiang, whose father is Africa’s longest-serving president.

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Equatorial Guinea is rich in oil and gas, but most of the country’s population still lives in poverty.

The same cannot be said for the ruling elite. In 2011, French authorities seized assets from the Paris mansion including Ferrari and Bugatti Veyron sports cars, expensive art works and “countless” high-end suits and shoes, French lawyer Alain Pellet told the world court in October.