Entwined in Equatorial Guinea Deals
By Justin Blum
September 9, 2004
A construction worker labors near the port in Luba, Equatorial Guinea. The oil-rich African nation has drawn millions in foreign capital, much of which apparently is lining the pockets of officials and their relatives.
While oil revenue has filled government coffers, most of the country's 500,000 citizens still survive on about $1 a day. Soon after arriving in Equatorial Guinea in 1991, the U.S. ambassador discovered an unusual arrangement involving the country's despotic president and the first successful oil company operating in the poor, West African nation. Walter International Inc. was paying to send the president's son to study at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., company employees told the ambassador, John Bennett. After Walter became successful with its business — and government relations — some of the biggest names in oil rushed to drill off the shore of a country the size of Maryland. They expanded on the type of arrangement Walter had with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, but on a much larger scale.
Their business activities provide a picture of how oil companies have operated in a developing country with a history of corruption. The companies paid for scholarships for children of the country's leaders, formed business ventures with government officials, hired companies linked to Obiang and rented property from government officials and their relatives, according to a U.S. Senate report released in July. The report which described the relationship between Riggs Bank of Washington and the oil firms operating in Equatorial Guinea, said the companies' actions raised "concerns related to corruption and profiteering."
The largest players
A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation includes the three companies with the largest presence in the country — Exxon Mobil, Amerada Hess and Marathon Oil —... [continues]
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