Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been accused of a lot of things: torturing political opponents, overseeing a corruption-filled regime and living a lavish lifestyle as most of his people languish in poverty. Now he can add not paying his legal fees to an American lawyer to his list.
Lanny Davis, who previously represented the government of deposed Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, is suing the Republic of Equatorial Guinea for stiffing him on a legal bill.Davis says that he helped Obiang in “instituting comprehensive political, legal and economic reforms,” but hasn’t been paid $142,000 he’s owed, Legal Times reported. His lawsuit says that he wasn’t reimbursed for expenses from four trips to the country, including his airfare and hotel accommodations which totaled $55,569.
Davis wrote in a July invoice to Obiang that he appreciated “finally paying me in June 2011 for the fees that had been due as of September 15, 2010. It took a great deal of effort, and apparently some serious transmission problems occurred in the wire transfer system, but I was relieved, since I am now running my own law firm and still have a family to support (13 year old and 6 year old, in addition to two older children and six grandchildren!), to receive these long-overdue fees.”
But he said that he had still not been paid the other fees “for reasons that have still not been explained.”
A 2008 Slate story made the case that Obiang’s life “seems a parody of the dictator genre” and that he was arguably the worst dictator in Africa:
Years of violent apprenticeship in a genocidal regime led by a crazy uncle? Check. Power grab in a coup against the murderous uncle? Check. Execution of now-deposed uncle by firing squad? Check. Proclamation of self as “the liberator” of the nation? Check. Govern for decades in a way that prompts human rights groups to accuse your regime of murder, torture, and corruption? Check, check, and check.
Of course Davis isn’t the only one with business ties to the country. The U.S. has been trying to maintain a relationship with the regime thanks to the availability of oil in the country.
Davis told Legal Times the suit was “a straightforward case of breach of contract based on four trips to Africa” in which he wasn’t paid for his out of pocket expenses.
“The reason I took the client was to help them transition to a democracy,” he said.
Late update: Davis contacted TPM after this piece was published to note that Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorsed the reform program that was laid out in a June 2009 Obiang speech he prepared. He said that Tutu thanked him personally for his efforts.