UK Blacklists Five Individuals Accused of Exacerbating Suffering Through Corruption
23 Jul 2021

The United Kingdom on Thursday imposed asset freezes and travel bans on five individuals accused of enriching themselves from illicit schemes that worsened human suffering in Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iraq.

The sanctions announced by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab under the nation’s Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime target Equatorial Guinea’s Vice President Teodoro Obiang Mangue, Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei, Nineveh Governor Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan, Colombian businessman Alex Nain Saab Morán and his associate Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas.

“The action we have taken today targets individuals who have lined their own pockets at the expense of their citizens,” Raab said in a statement. “Corruption drains the wealth of poorer nations, keeps their people trapped in poverty and poisons the well of democracy.”

In announcing the restrictions, the UK Foreign Office accused Obiang of misappropriating state funds and soliciting bribes to fund his purchase of a $100-million mansion in Paris, a $38-million private jet, a yacht, dozens of luxury vehicles and a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia that included a $275,000 crystal-covered glove that the performer wore on his ‘Bad’ tour.

Obiang’s father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has served as Equatorial Guinea’s head of state since 1979. Despite the country’s exploitation of oil reserves in recent decades, more than three out of four Equatorial Guineans live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

The UK’s designation of Saab follows his detention in Cape Verde last year on U.S. charges that he exploited two of Venezuela’s public programs to provide foodstuffs and housing to impoverished citizens as part of a corruption scheme linked to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

American authorities believe Saab, who also served as Venezuela’s envoy to Iran, may hold information on how Maduro and his associates purportedly looted hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers, according to Bloomberg. He is currently fighting extradition proceedings in Cape Verde.

Saab and Pulido “benefitted from improperly awarded contracts, where promised goods were delivered at highly inflated prices,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “Their actions caused further suffering to already poverty stricken Venezuelans, for their own private enrichment.”

Al-Sultan, who is currently serving a combined 5-year prison sentence in Iraq for corruption offenses, allegedly misappropriated approximately $3.4 million in public funds intended for reconstruction efforts while serving as the governor Nineveh.

Tagwirei, who was targeted under U.S. sanctions in August 2020, is accused of using his company Sakunda Holdings to redeem national treasury bills at up to 10 times their official value. The scheme accelerated the devaluation of Zimbabwe’s currency, the Foreign Office said.

Read the UK announcement here

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