KIGALI, Rwanda

France’s highest appeal court on Wednesday upheld the embezzlement guilty verdict against Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, which paves the way for the potential return of millions of dollars to the country, according to French media.

Teodoro Obiang Mangue, 52, also son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, was handed a three-year suspended sentence and fined €30 million ($36 million) in absentia in 2020. His assets, which included a mansion in France’s capital Paris, were confiscated.

Obiang had argued that French courts had no right to rule on his assets, but the Court of Cassation dismissed the argument and rejected his appeal, according to Radio France Internationale (RFI).

French judicial authorities estimated that he laundered approximately €150 million ($178 million) to build up the assets.

The luxury residence at the center of the dispute is reportedly located on Avenue Foch in Paris – featuring 101 rooms, a gym, a hairdressing studio and a disco with a cinema screen.

Wednesday’s ruling set the stage for sale of the assets under a new French law passed earlier this month, stipulating that the money, instead of going to the French state’s coffers, should go back to Equatorial Guinea.

This could be done via local or international NGOs or France’s development aid fund.

Last week, the British government sanctioned Obiang for the “misappropriation of public funds” and bribes that enabled him to lead a lavish lifestyle.

The sanctions, which include asset freeze and ban on entry to the UK, were taken in line with the anti-corruption sanctions regime which has already punished 22 individuals from six different countries in April.

Obiang’s father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 79, has ruled Equatorial Guinea for more than 41 years.

There are other pending cases of alleged misappropriation of funds by foreign officials in France.

In one such case, a French court has found Rifaat al-Assad, the exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, guilty of acquiring millions of euros worth of French property using funds diverted from the Syrian state, a charge he denied.

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