The prisoner, the president's son and the 'King of Pop'

Published 0946 GMT (1746 HKT) January 16, 2015
Jackson teaseJackson tease
1 of 16
What links singer Michael Jackson, the son of the Equatorial Guinean president and an Italian businessman currently languishing in prison in Bata? Betha Keiseria/AFP/Getty Images/file
Equatorial Guinea -- a country where more than three-quarters of its population live in poverty, and a nation described as "one of the world's most repressive societies" -- is hosting this year's Africa Cup of Nations. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979, won the last elections in 2009 with over 95% of the vote. He is pictured here with the Africa Cup of Nations. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
Obiang poses with his wife on the steps of the White House in August 2014, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Former SAS man Simon Mann (second from left) led a coup against Obiang in 2004. Apprehended in Zimbabwe, from where the mission was to take off, he served a four-year sentence there before being transferred to Black Beach prison in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in 2008. Mann served 15 months of a 34-year jail term before being pardoned by Obiang.
Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested in August 2004 for his alleged involvement in the coup. He was later fined the equivalent of $500,000 and given a four-year suspended jail term. ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP/Getty Images
President Obiang is building a new capital for Equatorial Guinea deep in the rainforest -- in the town of Oyala. A six-lane highway is being built through the jungle to what is hoped will be a city that can house the President, government and 200,000 inhabitants. PATRICK FORT/AFP/Getty Images
In August 2013, President Obiang was awarded the International Kim Jong-il Prize -- an award named after the late ruler of North Korea and instituted in 2012 -- for his commitment to "justice, development, peace and harmony." Both Equatorial Guinea and North Korea have been criticized for being dictatorships. STR/AFP/Getty Images
Roberto Berardi was convicted in 2013 of misappropriation, fraud and swindling, and sentenced to two years and four months in an Equatorial Guinea prison. Teodorin Obiang Nguema Mangue, son of President Obiang, accused business partner Berardi of financial impropriety. Massimo Spano
Berardi has been referred to as Teodorin's "personal prisoner," with the latter's accusation coming about after the Italian had questioned his partner about unsanctioned payments going to an unnamed account in the United States. Stefano Berardi
Berard is incarcerated in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, in a jail cell measuring three meters by three meters. He has spent the last year in isolation after being sentenced in August 2013. Roberto Berardi
President Obiang's son, Teodorin, is pictured with girlfriend Christina Mikkelsen during a distribution of toys to disadvantaged children in Malabo in December. Steve Jordan/AFP/Getty Images
Teodorin hands over a check for $1 million to the Equatorial Guinea squad after the co-host beat Libya in a group game at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
A firework display is seen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Bata, Equatorial Guinea. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
Malabo's Congress Center has hosted a number of important summits in recent years. PATRICK FORT/AFP/Getty Images
A WikiLeaks cable published in 2011 quoted U.S. diplomat Anton Smith as describing President Obiang as one of "the good guys," with a "mellowing, benign leadership." The cable advised the U.S. government to engage with Equatorial Guinea or risk endangering energy security. Joe Raedle/Getty Images