25 exotic cars seized from Equatorial Guinea vice president auctioned for $27 million
2 October 2019 - Autoblog
A white Lamborghini Veneno Roadster was the top draw
A collection of 25 supercars seized from Equatorial Guinea's vice president as part of a Swiss money-laundering probe fetched nearly $27 million (£22.18 million) at an auction held by Bonhams on Sunday.
A 2014 white Lamborghini Veneno Roadster sold for 8.28 million francs (£6.80 million) including commission, about 50% more than its pre-sale estimate, in heavy three-way bidding.
"The top lot of the collection and rarest of all, one of only nine built and introduced for the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini," said James Knight, group chairman of Bonhams Motoring Department, as he opened bidding.
The buyer was anonymous, but the saleroom burst into applause as the hammer came down at the event in a 12th-century abbey in the grounds of Bonmont golf and country club in the village of Cheserex, 19 miles from Geneva.
Geneva prosecutors said in February that they had closed an inquiry into Teodoro Nguema Obiang for money laundering and misappropriation of public assets with an arrangement to sell the cars to fund social programmes in west African state.
Known as Teodorin, he is the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 40 years. Rights groups label his administration as one the world's most corrupt.
Swiss authorities seized the cars and ordered the sequestration of a yacht in 2016.
The yacht was released in the arrangement announced in February, under which Equatorial Guinea agreed to pay Geneva authorities 1.3 million Swiss francs "notably to cover procedural costs," the prosecutor's office said.
A Reuters tally of official hammer prices, VAT and 15% commission, showed a total of 26.93 million francs.
A 2011 Aston Martin One-77 Coupe, which Knight described as an "absolute rocket ship", went for 1.55 million francs. "Proceeds are for charity," he said.
A black 2015 Koenigsegg One-1 fetched 4.6 million francs.
A Swiss bidder told Reuters that an agent for a collector in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had bought several supercars.
A grey armored 1998 Rolls Royce Silver Spur in need of repair — and described by Knight as "perfect for someone who doesn't have any friends or has enemies" — went for 86,250 francs.
A 1956 Aston Martin Lagonda, owned by the late Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, was among 50 other cars that found new owners.
The Rolling Stones, Petula Clark, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury rode in the vintage vehicle, the catalogue said.
Thierry Amsallem, Nob's partner and heir, attended the sale and bought a white 2007 Bentley Azure Decapotable from Obiang's collection for 112,125 francs.
"It is like new, just 843 miles on it. We'll use it to drive around performers," Amsallem, chair of the Claude Nobs Foundation, told Reuters.
The Equatorial Guinea president's son, who is also a vice president, has been ensnared in legal trouble elsewhere. Last year, Brazilian officials said $16 million in undeclared cash and luxury watches that were seized from a delegation he led may have been part of an effort to launder money embezzled from the country's government. And a Paris court in 2017 convicted the son of embezzling millions of dollars in public money, although the case has been appealed.
The Geneva prosecutor's office in February cited rules allowing prosecutors to close cases in which the person under investigation had "repaired the damage or done everything that could have been expected of him or her to make up for the wrong that was caused."
The investigation involved authorities in the United States, the Cayman Islands, France, Monaco, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Marshall Islands.