Various members of the Washington diplomatic elite gathered in the D.C. suburbs last night to honor and celebrate Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equitorial Guinea, whose American real estate empire, allegedly financed through corruption and oppression, is now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.
"Ambassador Carlton Masters and Hope Masters Cordially invite you to join us along with His Excellency Teodoro Obiang Mbasago, Presidential Host of the Ninth Leon H. Sullivan Summit FOR Cocktails, Dinner and Dancing," read the invitation to a reception at the Masters residence in Chevy Chase Thursday night.
Masters, who was the first special envoy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on African Diasporan Relations, is now the president and CEO of Goodworks International, a lobbying firm that brings together mostly energy companies and African governments. He also started a company with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
One of Masters's affiliations is with the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, a non-profit group working to improve the lives of poor Africans. Thursday's party invitation was sent out under the foundation's name and last December, Obiang accepted the foundation's "Beacon for Africa" award as the chair of the African Union.
Also late last year, the Justice Department and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed a civil asset forfeiture complaint against Obiang's son Teodorin, the country's minister of forestry. The U.S. government is going after more than $70 million of Teodorin's assets allegedly laundered in the United States, including a Malibu mansion, a rare Ferrari, a $38.5 million Gulfstream G-V jet, and roughly $1.1 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia.
The complaint alleged that Teodorin had amassed his wealth through "extortion and misappropriation, theft, and embezzlement of public funds." Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said at the time, "We are sending the message loud and clear: the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world's corrupt leaders."
Those corrupt leaders don't have to hide when they come to Washington, apparently -- they are still welcome at awards dinners and private parties held in their honor.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.