France denounced this Thursday that one of its military helicopters was detained after landing in Equatorial Guinea, while from the African country they claimed that the vehicle “violated airspace” and accused Paris of trying to “destabilize” Malabo.
The incident comes amid rising tensions between the two nations after a embezzlement scandal involving the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.
The French helicopter, which was carrying six soldiers, landed at the Bata airport in Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday night. According to the French military spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni, the vehicle was traveling from Douala (Cameroon) to a French military base in Libreville (Gabon), and landed in robe to refuel, pick up Reuters.
However, Mangue stated that it is a “French military reconnaissance helicopter” that he “violated the airspace” of Equatorial Guinea and landed at Bata airport “without any authorization.” “This shows once again the France’s intention to destabilize the Republic of Equatorial Guinea “, asserted the vice president on his Twitter account.
Ianni, for his part, assured that the soldiers traveling in the helicopter were unarmed and denied that France intended to harm Equatorial Guinea. “The Equatorial Guinean authorities decided to stop the helicopter. The matter is being resolved at the diplomatic level,” said the military spokesman.
A French military reconnaissance helicopter violates the airspace of Equatorial Guinea AND lands at the Bata International Airport without any authorization This demonstrates once again the intention of France to destabilize the Republic of Equatorial Guinea pic.twitter.com/rHi9SFrpLb
— teddy nguema (@teonguema) July 29, 2021
Controversy surrounding Mangue
The Gallic helicopter landed in Equatorial Guinea hours after the highest court of appeal in France confirm a guilty verdict in a case of embezzlement and money laundering against Mangrove.
Mangue, who is the son and heir of the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, received a three-year suspended sentence and a 30 million euro ($ 33 million) fine at the end of his 2020 default trial. In addition, the seizure of luxury goods seized in France during the investigation was ordered.
The NGO Transparency International, which was a party to the case, estimated that the seized assets, which include a mansion in the center of Paris —Which supposedly has 101 rooms, a gym, a hairdresser and a disco with a movie screen— are worth about 150 million euros (more than 178 million dollars).
Mangue repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and argued that the French courts had no right to rule on his assets. Following the court’s decision on Wednesday, the assets will be put up for sale under a new French law that stipulates that the money, instead of going to the French state, must return to Equatorial Guinea.
For now neither Paris nor Malabo spoke publicly of any link between the French court’s decision and the arrest of the helicopter.
The French court’s ruling comes a few days after another international incident which involved the vice president of the African nation. This Monday, Equatorial Guinea ad that will close its Embassy in London in response to the UK Government’s decision to sanction Mangue for embezzlement of millions of dollars believed to have been spent on luxury mansions, private jets and a $ 275,000 glove worn by American singer Michael Jackson.
Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign Ministry noted that the “unfounded” sanctions against Mangue were illegally imposed and that he had never made investments in the UK or been charged in court there. “Equatorial Guinea will not accept interference in the internal affairs of the country, which violates the principles of international law,” declared the country’s foreign minister, Simeón Oyono Esono Angüe.
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