September 12, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese leaders have transferred millions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth outside the country while a civil war that has left nearly half the country’s people homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian aid rages on, a campaign group disclosed Monday.
- Riek Machar, left, first vice president of the Republic of South Sudan, and Salva Kiir, the president, at the first meeting of the new transitional coalition government in Juba, South Sudan, in April, 2016 (Jason Patinkin/AP)
President Salva Kiir and some his top associates, along with Riek Machar, the country’s former vice president, have invested millions of dollars in real estate in Kenya, Uganda and Australia, according to a report by the Sentry, which investigates corruption and organized crime in Africa, following a two-year probe.
Hollywood actor George Clooney and John Prendergast, a former official in the Bill Clinton administration founded the anti-corruption group.
According to the report, these powerful political figures and their immediate relatives have large ownership interests in local oil, construction, security and gambling businesses—in violation of South Sudanese law barring officeholders from engaging in commercial activity.
“The leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely,” it says.
Details of grand corruption involving the top leadership of South Sudan and close military leaders were released for the first time following a two-year investigation on corrupt activities and deals implicating senior officials of President Kiir’s government.
The report published on Monday has revealed for the first time the networks fuelling one of the world’s deadliest conflict zones implicating president, deposed vice president, political and military leaders, international banks, arms dealers, multinational oil and mining companies.
The document entitled, ‘War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay’ reveals that President, Salva Kiir, and former Vice President Machar, their families and inner circles have “stashed fortunes that include overseas mansions, luxury cars, and stakes in an array of businesses – major multinational oil and mining companies, banks, casinos, and an airline — and have left a trail of murky transactions, insider deals, and outright fraud.”
The report has heavily implicated President Kiir, his family members and other relatives and in-laws as having involved in corruption, running various companies and holding major shares.
The report mentioned the Luri complex, west of the national capital, Juba, where the President owns farm with hundreds of cattle, buildings, private airport and construction facilities.
It also revealed that the president owns luxurious houses abroad including in neighbouring Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The President and his relative, Bol Mel, were also implicated in the multibillion AMBC company, which strikes dubious construction deals with the South Sudanese government, winning contracts of hundreds of millions of US dollars.
President Kiir, almost all his children, boys and girls, some of whom are teenagers, mentioned by their names in the report, also own large shares in various multimillion international and national companies operating in South Sudan.
President Kiir children’s national identity cards published with the report indicated that they were describing their occupations as “son of the president” or “daughter of the president.”
The President’s wife, Mary Ayendit, is also revealed in the report as owning companies or holding shares worth millions of dollars.
Machar is mentioned in the report as having his family in Nairobi, Kenya, living in a rented luxurious house. He is also said to have a house in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which the report said was not clear whether it was given to him by IGAD or the Ethiopian government during the peace talks.
Although the report could not pinpoint ownership of company or money by him or his wife or children, the report however mentioned that one of his sons had a 1% share with a security company, called KK Security, a Kenyan owned company, from 2006 before he was dismissed.
The country’s former vice president was also reported to have taken over the company by force when he was fired.
A number of senior army officers have reportedly stolen millions of US dollars, including the Chief of General Staff of the national army, General Paul Malong Awan, owns companies and shares, luxurious houses abroad, as well as his children owning shares in companies.
The report details international complicity at every turn — bankers, businessmen, arms dealers, real estate agents, and lawyers who facilitate their heist.
The Sentry found evidence of complicity in the looting and destruction of South Sudan on five different continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, and North America.
It collected images of family members of these top officials jet-setting and partying in 5-star hotels, and documentation of their offshore mansions and properties.
Researchers pored through thousands of pages of legal records, corporate filings, financial statements, transaction and shipping documents, and other official correspondence; tracked suspects’ online social media footprints; and utilized satellite imagery to gather and analyze data about their assets and movements.
Investigators travelled to multiple locations including Melbourne, Adelaide, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Juba, Cairo and Nairobi, to gather evidence and interview hundreds of experts and eyewitnesses, many of whom spoke under the condition of anonymity.
The report further revealed that dossiers were already being turned over to the United States, international governments and agencies for enforcement actions to be taken.
The Sentry report offered recommendations for an innovative new policy approach for preventing atrocities and promoting peace: combining anti-money laundering measures with targeted sanctions focused on the top leaders, accompanied by robust enforcement.
It also recommended to take proactive steps to curb the laundering of the proceeds of corruption in South Sudan —and crack down on any banks that fail to stop such transactions, was well as impose smarter sanctions on a wide array of high-impact targets and ensure these sanctions are robustly enforced.
“Encourage and support South Sudan’s neighbours to lead in combating the laundering of assets looted from South Sudan and imposing asset freezes on those most responsible for human rights violations and financial misconduct,” it said.
The report further recommends directing anti-money laundering pressures against politically exposed persons in South Sudan could cause banks to determine that the risk of doing business with South Sudanese account holders is simply too high when compared with the incentives for maintaining business in the country.
“The Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) should issue guidance to the banking community stressing that not every South Sudanese client is high-risk. Introduce a financial management system that prevents violent kleptocrats from capturing state institutions to facilitate the looting of public resources,” it added.
The Sentry brings together an experienced team of investigators, including former employees of the FBI, Treasury Department, other government agencies, intelligence communities, and Congress, as well as contributions from field researchers, country experts, academia and press.
The report, analysts say, is likely to be used by interested parties for future accountability.