THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nation’s highest court ruled Friday that a Paris mansion at the center of a dispute between France and Equatorial Guinea was never a diplomatic outpost.
French authorities seized the building on Paris’ swanky Avenue Foch in 2012 as they investigated Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the central African nation’s president, for misuse of public funds and money laundering.
Equatorial Guinea argued that, under an international treaty governing diplomatic relations, France had no right to seize the building as it had been operating as the country’s embassy since 2011.
In 2016, Equatorial Guinea asked the International Court of Justice to rule that Obiang, who is his country’s vice president, had immunity from prosecution. However the court said in 2018 that it did not have jurisdiction over that issue and said it would rule only on the status of the mansion.
On Friday, in a 9-to-7 vote, the court’s judges ruled that the building “has never acquired the status of ‘premises of the mission’ of the Republic of Equatorial Guine in France and that French authorities had not breached the Vienna Convention that governs diplomatic relations between nations.
In February, an appeals court in France upheld Obiang’s 2017 conviction and three-year suspended sentence for embezzling millions of dollars in public money, and fined him 30 million euros. The conviction also ordered the Avenue Foch mansion confiscated, but the ruling could not be carried out pending the outcome of the world court case.