A lavish Malibu property once infamously owned by the son of an African nation’s dictator is once again the center of controversy, as an insurance company claims that the real estate broker in charge of selling the home to a new owner sold the property for far less than its original worth.
Insurance company Western World claimed in its lawsuit that Mauricio Umansky, founder and CEO of luxury real estate firm The Agency, sold a mansion for millions less than its value because he had partnered with the winning bidder. This previously unrevealed partnership, the insurer alleged, allowed both to flip the property less than a year later for much more.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Mauricio Umansky will not be able to get out out of that lawsuit over the Malibu mansion.https://t.co/weBfSg4DvX— The Blast (@TheBlastNews) September 15, 2018
The property in question – located at 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road within the gated community of Serra Retreat – is not just your ordinary bluff-top mansion. Built in 1991, the 16-acre estate located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific was once owned by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
While Teodoro the father is infamous for ruling the oil and natural gas-producing country as a dictator for decades, Teodoro the son has led an equally-decadent lifestyle. Named “Minister of Agriculture and Forestry” of Equatorial Guinea, the younger Teodoro, nicknamed “Teodorin” by his people, managed to purchase the nearly $44 million (adjusted for inflation) mansion in 2006 despite having a monthly salary of only $3,700. Teodorin was also a luxury car enthusiast, and had owned an entire hip hop music record label at some point.
After US Homeland Security exposed the Obiang family’s secret accounts at the Washington-based Riggs Bank in 2011, the Justice Department moved to seize Teodoro’s assets – which included his son’s opulent pad in Malibu as well as a Ferrari, a private jet and the jacket worn by Michael Jackson in the Thriller music video.
A foreign complaint alleged that Teodorin had spent $315 million on properties and luxury goods between 2004 and 2011; he allegedly accomplished this by levying personal “taxes” against local and foreign timber companies for licenses to operate and export timber, the complaint said. In 2014, Teodorin reached a settlement with the Department of Justice to pay some of the funds held in accounts on his behalf, as well as picking up his clifftop mansion. $10.3 million of the proceeds of the sale would go to US officials and the rest would be distributed to charities supporting the people of Equatorial Guinea.
It is here that a new chapter in the property’s intrigue-filled history begins.
In 2015, Obiang and the US government chose Umansky to sell the property. Sweetwater Malibu – an Obiang-controlled limited liability company – had asked that the sale be transacted quietly.
After receiving five offers, Umansky settled for $33.5 million from Mauricio Oberfeld, a known developer of luxury homes. Oberfeld later bought the house for $32.5 million in 2016, asking Sweetwater Malibu for a discount since the property was in need of repairs.
Just nine months later, Oberfeld flipped the house for $69.9 million – more than double what he paid for it. Oberfeld also revealed that he had a partner in the deal: Umansky. Umansky had invested alongside Oberfeld in the 2016 purchase and was even responsible for listing the home in 2017.
Western World claimed in its lawsuit that Umansky did not disclose his investment until moments before the sale closed.
While proceeds of the sale of the house will go to third parties, Sweetwater protested to the collusion between Umansky and Oberfeld. An attorney representing Sweetwater demanded private mediation, reasoning that Umansky abused his position as both broker and buyer to land a deal that benefitted himself instead of Sweetwater.
The company later made a bolder claim – that Umansky recommended the sale to Oberfeld and even offered to lower the price by a million dollars, despite knowing that another buyer, Sam Hakim, was willing to purchase the property for $8 million more than Oberfeld’s bid.
Faced with the allegations, Umansky and his brokerage turned to Western World to pay for their legal defense. Instead, the insurer sued Umansky and his firm in June.
Western World also agreed with Sweetwater’s statements, noting in its suit that Umansky had failed to notify both Sweetwater and the US government about Hakim’s offer.
“The failure of [the Agency] and Umansky to disclose the negotiation between Oberfeld and Hakim … was an obvious violation of fiduciary duties,” Western World alleged.
Los Angeles Times reported that the case will proceed in federal district court once Umansky and the Agency file their response to the allegations.