Equatorial Guinea’s government wants its vice president’s yacht back. The yacht is the 249-foot (76-meter) Ebony Shine, which is under arrest due to alleged financial corruption on the part of her owner.
Dutch authorities seized Ebony Shine in December. They did so at the request of Swiss courts, acting on behalf of the Swiss government. That government is investigating the yacht’s owner, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Equatorial Guinea’s vice president. The Swiss government claims he laundered money from Equatorial Guinea’s own funds, using some to buy Ebony Shine.
Ebony Shine launched in 2009 at Feadship as Ocean Victory. She sold in 2014 and underwent an extensive refit last year in The Netherlands. Shortly after the refit wrapped up, the Dutch authorities seized her, and she remains in Dutch waters today.
According to Maritime Executive magazine, the government of Equatorial Guinea argued its case in Dutch court last week. Nguema’s lawyers claimed that Ebony Shine is a government vessel, referencing an offshore holding company controlled by the country. The magazine quotes the public prosecutor as replying, “A Jacuzzi on the upper deck serves no military purpose.” To this, the lawyers responded that, even if Ebony Shine wasn’t government property, Nguema is immune to prosecution as a leader of a sovereign nation. They added that it’s immaterial whether the yacht is entirely state-owned or partially used privately by a government official.
This isn’t the first time Nguema and his luxury lifestyle have experienced intense scrutiny. For example, the French government seized a number of luxury cars and rare works of art from his Paris residence in 2011. A related corruption trial continues this coming summer. Furthermore, the Swiss government seized an additional 11 luxury cars from another residence of his last November.
Nguema is the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president.