Home | News    Thursday 22 March 2012

South Sudan: SPLM’s Amum acquitted of $30 million scam

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By Ngor Arol Garang

March 21, 2012 (JUBA) - A court in South Sudan’s capital Juba on Wednesday acquitted the Secretary General of the country’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Pagan Amum Okiech, of receiving a $30 million corrupt payment in 2006.

South Sudan’s then minister of finance, Arthur Akuien Chol, alleged earlier this year that he received orders from “above” to transfer the public money.

Lado Arimino Sekwat, the high court judge who presided over the case on Wednesday said he was clearing Amum because there was not “sufficient evidence” indicating that the money had been transferred into his private account. However, the judge said that it was proved that the money was transferred into an official SPLM account to which Amum was not a signatory.

It is still unknown what happened to the money, what it was spent on, or why public funds were transferred into an account belonging to the ruling SPLM.

The ruling was met by cheering from Amum’s supporters who were present in the court room. The judge ruled that Chol pay Amum 100,000 South Sudanese pounds ($37,000) in compensation for defaming his personality.

He also fined The Citizen and Almasir newspapers 100,000 SSP each for publishing “lies” about Amum. If the papers and Chol do not publish an apology within 15 days this fine will increase to 1 million SSP to be paid within three months. Chol was also instructed to pay court fees of 30 million SSP.

Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, Amum smiled thanking his family for the support they gave him before and during trial.

Amum praised the "professionalism and commitment to uphold the rule of law" showed by the judge and both legal teams. The SPLM secretary general also thanked Chol for taking the matter to court.

"Today’s verdict is milestone in the long quest to promote and ensure respect for the rule of law in South Sudan as a credible mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting the rights of all," said Amum.

The senior member of the country’s ruling party explained that the passage of the verdict without objection restores confidence in the efficiency and fairness of the judiciary and discourages attempts by individuals to take the law into their own hands through the use of violence, foul language and exchange of insults.

“I could have done that but I chose the court because this is the way to address such cases”, said Amum explaining further that the verdict also “sends out a clear message that the freedom of expression should be exercised in such a measured, responsible manner that ensures the rights of others are not hammered or taken away”.

Amum also accused Chol of intending to tarnish his political image but that he has forgiven him, saying has no “personal grudges” against him.

Lam Akol, the leader of the SPLM for Democratic Change South Sudan’s largest opposition party, has also threatened to take Amum to court over his allegation that the SPLM-DC have links to militia and rebel groups in Upper Nile State that are backed by Khartoum. However, since then Akol has reconciled with President Salva Kiir and returned to Juba from self-imposed exile.

Despite being found Chol guilty of attacking Amum’s personality, the former finance minister insisted that the money he always maintained that the money was wired to Amum through the SPLM account and not directly.

Speaking at a press briefing, Chol described the ruling as "unfair" and that he would appeal against it but said he was happy the court recognised that he did not embezzle any money as had been alleged by some news outlets over the last six years.

Chol demanded he be allowed to appeal to the high court because his allegation was not that the money was transferred into Amum’s personal account, despite this being the basis that senior SPLM figure was acquitted.

“I have never said the money was transferred to [Amum’s] personal account. What I said was that I cannot account for money which was transferred to SPLM/GOSS account”, said Chol.

He said that the case had been a big success in that it was now accepted that the money had been wired from the ministry of finance to an SPLM account.

“This is the biggest achievement because for the last six years I have been accused to have embezzled this money. I am now cleared since they have accepted it”, said former finance minister

However this did not appear to be the case on 10 February 2012 when Chol told journalists that 30 million SSP was paid by the Ministry of finance directly into Amum’s account as he was instructed from "above". He said that the transfer was done on 22 December 2006 and that Amum should tell the public how he spent the funds.

Chol said he had kept quiet over the allegations until this year due to patriotism and a wish not to disrupt preparations for South Sudan’s referendum in January 2011 and subsequent independence in July.

“I was accused recently in the newspaper and some parliamentarians of not going to the parliament to answer questions about irregularity in 2006 report produced by then Audit[or] General. The reasons were that I was told my presence was not required, as I have already written and submitted a report to the public accounts committee in the parliament”, Chol said in his official release in February.

He noted there have been constant attempts by some individuals within the SPLM dominated government to discredit and defame him since he left government accusing him of misusing and stealing public funds.

Chol was South Sudan’s first finance minister in the autonomous government that was formed in Juba as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which also established a power sharing Government of National Unity in Khartoum.

In 2005 the SPLM went from being the political wing of a guerrilla army to a governing party of one of the poorest areas of the world with almost no infrastructure after decades of civil war.

A report earlier this year presented to South Sudan’s parliament showed that in 2005-2006 $1 billion went unaccounted for.

Chol said: “the Government of the period of 2005-6 had great influx of cash and I being the minister of finance and economic planning at that time has strict operative values that cloud not allow the public money to be rotating anyhow amongst corrupt individuals”.

Before he was removed as the Minister of Finance in 2007 Chol was accused of purchasing vehicles for the government at twice the actual amount from the Cardinal company. Chol says that he purchased the vehicles having received written instructions from South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar.

Chiol maintains that he instructed his ministry to undergo proper procurement procedures in the purchase, which he says occurred while he was on an official visit to Malaysia and Singapore but his undersecretary had failed to follow his directives.

After he was sacked Chol was investigated and tried for corruption but the case was dismissed in September 2009 due to lack of evidence.

No official has been successfully prosecuted for corruption in South Sudan since the SPLM came to power in 2005 despite billions of dollars going unaccounted for.

(ST)

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  • 22 March 2012 09:13, by Michael Angelo

    There is no rule of laws in this country. Thirty million US dollars cannot be played like that. Both Amum and former minister of finance Akuein Chol are not sincere at all. Pagan Amum was SPLM Secretary general by then and money were transfered into his office. He should explain how he spent $30 million that Akuien alleged been transfered into SPLM Office

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  • 22 March 2012 09:15, by Malou Manyiel

    Is this a court or investment court? Iam afraid of this court’s fine. Who can pay a fine of up to 100,000 SSP and above? This court didn’t study the case but money!!

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    • 22 March 2012 09:43, by Michael Angelo

      Malou Manyiel,

      I agree with you by saying that this court has failed the case itself or there seems to be a foul play in this judicial system. What evidence do they need while there is a prove that money had been transfered into SPLM Office. Court should ask Amum whether he was aware about the money and how these money were spent by the said SPLM officials.

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    • 22 March 2012 11:15, by viper

      Malou, This old man called Arthur deserve that fine couz of his own contradicting statements. What he said in the Home & Away press conference has not appeared in the court at all and this indicates that he is not responsible for what he said since he didn,t know where to begin and end.

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    • 22 March 2012 12:46, by The Messiah

      I share the same sentiment Malou. a court was set up for one week only to come back a week later with a verdict. fishy uh! in a real investigation, the court can go as far as foreign countries and investigate suspicious accounts there. and the judge and his cronies didn’t. based on the assumption that Pagan is an SG of SPLM, he is free to eat. I feel sorry for the powerless newspapers and Arthur.

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    • 22 March 2012 12:50, by Diu J.Kuek

      Pagan Amum was acquitted of $30 million scam for this verdict I can not blame the Judicial system Mr Arthur and his defence Lawyer didn,t represented sufficient evidence lack of sufficient ground in order to make his case strong.yes Mr Pagan Amum should be found guilty of corruption according to the nature of this case but Mr Arthur is totally confused because he is among the thefts.

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  • 22 March 2012 09:24, by Malou Manyiel

    The court itself fail the case. Well the money was not tranfered to Amum’s personal accounts but to his office. If so then, did the court asked Amum whether he was aware of this money transfered to his office by then? What Chol want to know is that Amum should details how that money he transfered was spent.

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    • 22 March 2012 09:41, by Michael Angelo

      Malou Manyiel,

      I agree with you by saying that this has court failed the case totally or there seems to be a foul play in this judicial system. What evidence do they need while there is a prove that money had been transfered into SPLM Office. Court should ask Amum whether he was aware about the money and how these money were spent by the said SPLM officials.

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      • 22 March 2012 13:57, by viper

        Michael, the court was suppose to ask Amuom whether he knew the money or not, But is this court independent? Is it not made up of SPLM handpicked judges? How can you expect the court to be fair in the judgement of their boss? This case was suppose to be judged by an independent judge so that this old man (Arthur) should not confuse like this

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  • 22 March 2012 09:48, by Monydo

    I disagreed with the Judge ruling in this case—it is very unfortunate that there is justice for politicians and ordinary citizens—I dont think wthether justice has been served—Pagan is the party Secretary—he should be answerable for anything to do with missing properties of the party including tender things like money—I think the judge mind was somewhere else when he handed down the verdict-

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    • 22 March 2012 10:05, by Malou Manyiel

      Brother Michael,

      There will be no trust, both in the government and its judiciary system in South Sudan. Even a chief in the village can indentified the truth in this case, than let it go like that. There will be no government official prosecuted of corruption if such a court like this one are incompetence.

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      • 22 March 2012 10:16, by Michael Angelo

        Yeah, you are right brother. We don’t hate Amum, but the truth should be told. This ruling is not fair at all as former minister of finance has said.

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  • 22 March 2012 10:13, by manyang mawech

    whethere he is working hard for Abei Pangan is a victim of Dinka he did not do anything wrong but bc he is a none dinka now he becomes a victime.

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    • 22 March 2012 11:04, by Malou Manyiel

      Manyang,

      You have misfired the point here brother. Stop your tribalistic mouth. If you ask Amum of who are his close supporters since then up to now, he will tell you Dinka are his supporters and closest friends. We did not challenge or accused Amum of stealing the money but the incompetence of the court, and you will tell me, this case is not over yet.

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  • 22 March 2012 11:02, by mohammed ali

    It is just funny!Why should the newspapers pay a fine. They didn’t accuse Pagan, they simply reported what Arther Quinin had said.They can’t give evidence, they don’t have access to documents. The accusation & defaming came from Quinin.He accused Pagan directly. He is the man who claimed to transfer the money.Pagan should file case him not the news paper.He can’t, Arther has eveidence & documents!

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    • 22 March 2012 14:33, by Mi diit

      They are unprofessional newspapers.

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  • 22 March 2012 11:11, by stateman

    this verdict sounds like it was auspiciously planned and i am suspicious as to what was course of fire in the s.p.l.m h.q now? because why is judge rulling in this case asking 100k ssp for compensation to amum but 30 million ssp for court fees? and then again why was this case brought forward promptly as there where about a dozen other case of the so called most corrupt top 13 official sit limbo

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    • 22 March 2012 11:32, by mosa mel

      Man, they try to intimidate Mr Chol not to continue with rest of the case because 13 corrupted are the people who plan this. It also intimidate anti-corruption panel to prevent effective report. It mean we don’t judge in South Sudan if it is the judges rule

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    • 23 March 2012 14:03, by pabaak

      That’s a good question, we never heard about the cases that involve billions of dollars like, the Dura Saga, and of course the list of the 13 most corrupted figures of the party, which like they want to investigate Masada seeds while leaving the big elephant untouched.

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  • 22 March 2012 11:16, by mosa mel

    The judge need to go back to school if report is true but I don’t believe Ngor Arol report. He always too bias. I think judge want to loots Mr Chol. But how can Mr Chol accuse Mr. Amoum without proper documents?

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  • 22 March 2012 11:23, by mosa mel

    The media or newspaper have no connect with lie. They are just report what is said. therefore the liar was Mr Chol. Why judge fine media. This is not a judge but Amum agent. That way indicate that Amum stold the and need to prove by real court not so call Arimino.

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  • 22 March 2012 11:28, by viper

    This court though not fair has proved mr Akuien a Liar. He is really not a responsible old school. How can a responsible petson make such contradictory statements? Home&Away and Juba high court. The good thing is that he is a liar by profession. He now lacks the credibility which may stop the media from talking to him

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  • 22 March 2012 11:28, by Emporio

    those gorillas supposed to act like good people,they have seized upon the government by bribery and corruption They have made speculation and public fund robbery as a science,even the judicial system in south act like foolish never knew law,to deceive the public, the budget of whole year 2005 disappeared,no one ever ask about it, shame on justice in south

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  • 22 March 2012 11:39, by stateman

    its pathetic s.p.l.m h.q was burnt down and there was no formal investigation or was any body held accountable for negligence add to that then the ridiculous court fees of $8,571,428.57 i swear these people are joking do we look like idiots i fell disgusted by this saga

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    • 23 March 2012 14:15, by pabaak

      Stateman, you are right, the figures are quick to protect their reputation, because in the party, figure matter most than the party, so if properties burned, no deep investigation, no problem because there is big money out there.

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  • 22 March 2012 11:54, by Mi diit

    Thief Arthur Akwen Chol and Citizen newspaper are stupid who run their mouths against leaders from Greater Upper Nile. They deserve to lose in court and pay such a heavy price.

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  • 22 March 2012 12:14, by Alagaya

    For how long the stupid judge Exame the case, to prove Mr. Pagan not Guilty? Well this is what I call top level corrupted.

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    • 22 March 2012 13:01, by Loko El Pollo

      THE COURT FINES ARE EXCESSIVE,NOBODY WILL AFFORD SUCH FINE EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN DIAPORA.THE WHOLE SENERIO WAS A SHAM TO MITIGATE PUBLIC SCRUTINY CONCERNING THE MONEY DISSAPEARANCES.THE FACT REMAIN,WE ARE SCREWED BY THE PARTY.THE SPLM DREAMS OF THE NEW SOUTH SUDAN ARE MEANT FOR PUBLIC FEEL GOOD BALMS TO PROVIDE ROOM FOR ROBBERY AND THEN RUN AS FAR AS YOU COULD.

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  • 22 March 2012 14:16, by Junubia

    Dear, Junubein, lets be reasonable people. First the case was not about what happened to the money. Arthur Said he wired 30 million dollars to Pagan’s personal account. then he said no, it was to SPLM account, not personal. that is the hallmark of the case. If someone wires money to Government of RSS, will he say he has wired it to Kosti’s personal account or to Arthurs’ personal account?

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  • 22 March 2012 14:20, by Junubia

    Now, it is well known that when a respectable Newspaper is about to write an article they should hear both sides of the story and call the SG to tell him we are publishing so and so about you, what is your comment. Instead Citizen Newspaper published without asking and Al massir called but went head and published anyway without listening to the SG side of the story.

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  • 22 March 2012 14:24, by Junubia

    So, if any newspaper can just publish anything about anybody and they are not held accountable. What is the difference between Newspapers and the ladies who braid our hairs....for christ sake...give us a break. be civilized and responsible in you ranting....

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  • 22 March 2012 14:51, by Mi diit

    Nhial Bol is now crying because of his unprofessionalism which resulted to heavy fines and shameful apologies to Pagan Amum for 15 consecutive days on front page of his Citizen newspaper. Unfair and one-sided stories haunted him.

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  • 23 March 2012 09:17, by solider

    IT IS WISE TO BE A THIEF IN S.SUDAN,COZ IF U DIDN’T TAKE THAT MONEY QUICKLY SOMEBODY ELSE WILL TAKE IT

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    • 23 March 2012 19:42, by Ruach

      A thief judge a thief!No solution at all.A thief was instructed to accuse a thief to confuse the pple.

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  • 23 March 2012 13:39, by pabaak

    Yeah is clear that the case has not been truly investigated to find the hidden aspect of it, there is no way the case involving money laundry could finish fast like this, it should be given more time to fully study the case, otherwise it could backfire the ruling judge, because the dependence lawyer was heard saying the judge was trying to use his power to threaten him in order to lose the case.

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