One of the sons of Equatorial Guinea’s veteran ruler has been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling a plane owned by the national airline, state television said on Tuesday.
Ruslan Obiang Nsue, whose iron-fisted father President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled since 1979, was arrested on Monday and placed under house arrest, TVGE said.
The channel said authorities launched an inquiry at the end of November “after discovering that an ATR 72-500 belonging to the national airline (Ceiba Intercontinental) had gone missing”.
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The plane had been sent to Spain in 2018 for routine maintenance, TVGE said.
Obiang is suspected of having sold it to Binter Technic, an aircraft maintenance company based in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Grand Canary.
The ATR 72-500 is a turboprop developed in the late 1980s by the French-Italian manufacturer ATR with a capacity of up to 74 passengers.
Obiang is a former junior minister for sports and youth and former head of the airline who is today head of airport services, Ceiba Aeropuertos.
His half-brother, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, said on Twitter, “Ruslan Obiang has admitted that he was the one who sold Ceiba’s ATR.”
“I will not be swayed by family ties or favoritism, which is why I ordered his immediate arrest and that he be brought to justice.”
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The two men’s 80-year-old father, President Obiang, is the longest-serving head of state today, excluding monarchs.
He seized power in August 1979, overthrowing his uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was then executed by firing squad.
Resolutely suppressing dissent and surviving a series of coup attempts, Obiang has been at the helm of the oil-rich Central African state ever since.
But wealth is concentrated in the hands of just a few and four-fifths of the population of 1.4 million live below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures.
The country also has a reputation for graft, ranking 172 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.
News of the plane’s disappearance, and its suspected sale, emerged in December, sparking a wave of indignation.
Obiang has long been considered to have groomed Teodoro as his successor.
Speculation grew that he would hand over the reins last year at the presidential election as his public appearances became more rare.
But those expectations were dashed after Teodorin was embroiled in scandals abroad over assets suspected of being illegally acquired.
France, Britain and the United States have ordered him to forfeit millions of dollars in assets, from mansions to luxury cars, while France also handed him a three-year suspended sentence and a 30 million euro ($30 million) fine.
President Obiang ran for a sixth term in the November vote and received 94.9 percent of the vote.