Despite criticism from human rights groups, the internationally acclaimed Spanish performer Julio Iglesias sang before the political elite of Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s poorest and least democratic countries, at a concert where tickets ranged between 80 and 750 euros.
The event was organized by Teodorín Obiang Nguema Mangue, vice-president of the former Spanish colony and son of the longtime dictator Teodoro Obiang. Teodorín, 43, who lived in Paris for several years, is wanted by French authorities for embezzlement, money laundering and several other charges, and has since fled back to Malabo to avoid arrest. When he was agriculture minister in his country, he used to charge wood exporters an illegal 10-percent commission, several businessmen have stated.
Human Rights Watch and EG Justice had warned Iglesias about the sketchy track record of his hosts. “We asked them to clear up the source of financing for the concert and Teodorín’s role in the event, but received no reply,” says Joseph Kraus, director of EG Justice.
The Spanish singer, who is one of the world’s top-selling artists of all time with an estimated 300 million albums sold worldwide, went ahead and performed for all the leading members of the Momgomo clan, which controls all the political and administrative strings in the country.
“The entire government was there, and the first ladies of several African nations. When I greet them, I don’t ask them if their husbands are corrupt,” said Iglesias in a telephone interview. “I didn’t know that Obiang’s son had legal problems. There is a Spanish embassy there, and many companies from our country. I never considered not going.”
The singer’s website, however, did not mention the Malabo concert, which was instead publicized by Teodorín Obiang on his Facebook profile.