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Did the son of Equatorial Guinea's leader really try to buy a $380 million yacht called 'Zen?'

Teodorin Obiang, son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, tried to buy the world's second most expensive yacht, according to Global Witness, an anticorruption advocacy group in London.

By Drew HinshawCorrespondent / March 8, 2011



Dakar, Senegal

Did Teodorin Obiang, son of the president of tiny, impoverished Equatorial Guinea try to buy what would have been the world's second most expensive custom-built yacht?

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He most certainly did, according to Global Witness, a London-based anticorruption group.

Mr. Obiang, who doubles as the country's agricultural minister, approached Germany's Kusch Yachts to commission "Zen": a $380 million football field-length cruise-liner packing a movie theater, restaurant, bar, fingerprint-activated doorknobs, and a swimming pool, says Global Witness.

Zen's basic design was completed by Kusch in December 2009 for $342,000 with an original delivery date set for late 2012, but construction has not yet started.

Sticker shock?

The government of the oil-rich but dirt-poor nation says Obiang never intended to use government funds to purchase a personal ark. He was just, they say, inquiring on what such a boat would cost – then caught sticker shock and thought better of his sealust.

But even if they're right, what was a guy whose official salary is only $81,588 a year be doing at the yacht store? It would take 4,600 years of regular wages to pay off Project Zen. Even an average yacht – a $65 million proposition, according to a 2005 Forbes Magazine report – would require 797 years of steady government work as the agricultural minister.

Yet, despite his bureaucrat's salary, Obiang finds a way to whet his appetite for the finer things in life.

Obiang boasts a $35 million Malibu mansion, a private jet, a one-in-thirty Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 (the wold's most expensive contemporary car), a record label that doesn't make records, and – if gossip blogs are to be believed – a romance history with Eve, the American rapper who did "Who's That Girl." (New York Daily News claimed the two spent a Christmas partying on Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's $700,000-a-spin yacht.)

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