French judge calls for crackdown on money laundering with new ruling

Legal experts behind the case call the court's decision 'historic'

(Pixabay, front; Josh Hallett, back)
(Pixabay, front; Josh Hallett, back)

In a case where the verdict symbolized more than the fines and punishment it meted out, lawyers are touting a French court ruling as a defining moment for international money laundering.

The son of Equatorial Guinea president, Nguema Obiang, was found guilty by Paris criminal court of buying assets including real estate and luxury goods like sports cars in the country with “ill-gotten gains,” according to Bloomberg News.

On an annual salary of about $80K as a government minister, he bought a $116 million mansion near the Champs-Élysées among other lavish purchases. He was sentenced to a suspended three-year jail term and fined almost $35 million.

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The judge also spoke out against the Société Générale SA and France’s central bank describing their “complacency” to these transactions played a “decisive role” that ultimately allowed money laundering to take place for years.

William Bourdon, a lawyer with Transparency International, called it a “historic” ruling.

“It’s an unprecedented and global message the court is sending to kleptocrats. It is the beginning of the end for this rule of impunity,” he said to Bloomberg News.

[Bloomberg] — E.K. Hudson