Sudan: Deposed President Omar al Bashir faces prosecution for money laundering
Apr 29, 2019 —
(29 April 2019) Less than two months after banning the hoarding of cash, recently ousted Omar al Bashir is being accused of money laundering after large sums of cash tallying to approximately 7 billion Euros, 350,000 US dollars and 5 billion Sudanese pounds were recovered from the Presidential Palace in Khartoum. According to a reliable source, Sudanese security agents seized the money while carrying out a search in the deposed president’s home on 19 April 2019. 315 Saudi riyals deposited in a bank account owned by an employee of the presidential palace was also seized. Pictures circulated by the media shows large sums of money, in US dollars, British pounds and Sudanese pounds packed in sucks.
In February 2019, al Bashir issued an order banning the hoarding of the cash and “speculation” on the currency. The decree prohibited individuals from storing or carrying more than 1 million Sudanese pounds and/or 3000 US dollars outside the banking system. Entities were banned from storing more than 5 million Sudanese pounds and storing amounts that are not commensurate with the scale of their activity.
Punishment for violation of the decree, in addition to punishments in any other breached laws, is imprisonment for a period between six to ten years, as well as a fine. A peaceful protester was sentenced to six years in prison and a fine for violating this decree in the same month it was announced.
Al Bashir passed this decree after several anti-government protests broke out across Sudan since 19 December 2018, triggered by a severe increase in prices of fuel, bread and other basic commodities resulting from emergency austerity measures and sharp currency devaluation imposed by the government in an attempt to save the collapse of its struggling economy. Protesters initially denounced the rising cost of living but later started calling for resignation of al Bashir. Reliable information has linked the money found at al Bashir’s home to those used by his regime to “motivate” militias and masked individuals who violently cracked down on peaceful protests.
On 20 April 2019, the Senior Public Prosecutor, Mr Mutasim Mahmoud confirmed the seizure of large sums of money at al Bashir’s residence and stated that the prosecution office will commence investigations against al Bashir for money laundering. According to Mr Mahmoud, the money has been safely deposited in the treasury of the Bank of Sudan.
ACJPS has also received reliable information indicating that investigators, including an officer from the Sudan Armed Forces have completed recording statements of security agents who carried out the search and seized the money. Subsequent investigations will be carried out from Kober prison in Khartoum where the deposed president is currently being held since 16 April 2019.
The Sudanese legal framework for the offence of money laundering is set out in the Anti Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism Act 2010. The 2010 Act criminalizes money laundering and prescribes a penalty of imprisonment, for a term, not exceeding ten years, and fine, not exceeding double the money subject of the offence.
ACJPS expresses concern over the competence and independence of domestic courts to try al Bashir. Although Article 123 (2) of the 2005 Interim Constitution guarantees their independence, in practice domestic courts have largely been subservient to the former President or the security forces, particularly in cases of crimes against the state. Moreover, the Constitution remains suspended since 11 April 2019.
Jurisdictional independence and competence in Sudan is also hindered by other legislation, for example, Article 58 of the Criminal Procedures Act 1991 grants the Minister of Justice the right to interfere in judicial proceedings and to stay or dismiss any criminal proceedings “and his decision shall be final and shall not be contested….”. This Article violates the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and will most likely provide opportunity for al Bashir’s allies within the judiciary, law enforcement and government to interfere in his trial.
ACJPS is also deeply concerned about lack of accountability for gross violations of human rights committed during al Bashir’s regime. In 2009 and 2010, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Bashir has managed to avoid arrest since 2009 despite the ICC’s arrest warrants which oblige all states parties to arrest him upon arrival within their territory. The transitional military council has stated that it will not extradite al Bashir to the International Criminal Court(ICC).
We urge authorities to conduct broader investigations that includes gross human rights violations committed during al Bashir’s regime.
ACJPS calls on Sudan to;
Immediately investigate allegations of grave human rights abuse in Sudan, including extra-judicial killings and torture that have taken place in the context of the current protests.
Repeal all laws granting immunity and hold perpetrators to account in competent and independent courts of law.
Undertake a comprehensive reform of laws that restrict the enjoyment of human rights by Sudanese citizens.
Restore and uphold the Sudanese Interim Constitution of 2005.
Since 2017, there has been a continuous deterioration in the economic situation in Sudan leading to the decline in value of the Sudanese Pound. The exchange rate for the US Dollar to the Sudanese pound had risen to 60 Sudanese Pounds, resulting in increased costs of living and the prices of basic commodities. There has also been scarcity of hard cash in the banks, making it difficult for citizens to withdraw necessary amounts needed to meet the costs of purchasing the necessary commodities.
In June 2017, the US Government lifted the economic sanctions against Sudan. At the time, the market value of the US Dollar to the Sudanese Pound was 15 Pounds. Three days after the lifting of the sanctions, the value of the Sudanese pound rose to 17 Pounds. By September 2018, the Pound had gone beyond 40 Pounds.
In September 2018, the Sudanese Central Bank introduced two new currency notes for 100 and 500 Sudanese pounds but this did not result increase of money in circulation. Numerous private factories and business involved in either food production or other basic commodities closed down without prior notice. This resulted in a shortage of supply of basic commodities as well as unemployment of former employees. Several facilities, service centres and companies preferred to transact in cash and started to reject bank cheques including medical facilities.
The lack of cash flow led to public distrust in the banking system that has preferred to keep cash out of the banks or transact on the black market. On the market, the exchange rate of the US Dollar to the Sudanese Pound was 6 Sudanese Pounds if transacting with cash and 8 Sudanese pounds if transacting by bank cheque.
In November 2018, the Sudanese Judiciary issued a decree restricting the selling of land and cars to be conducted via cheque instead of cash. Such a declaration is against the law and indicated an economic policy intended to force people to engage with the struggling banking system. This policy left many investors and businessmen wondering about the fate of their money.
By 19 December 2018, the market value of Sudanese pounds had risen to 80, worsening the already sharp increase in prices and shortages of basic commodities and fuel. This triggered mass peaceful protests across Sudan that led to the ousting and arrest of al Bashir on 11 April 2019 by the Sudanese army and establishment of a transitional military council which has been mandated to oversee a transitional period of two years. Currently, the market value of Sudanese pound is 16.
Peaceful protesters have called authorities to hold al Bashir and all members of his administration to account for the corruption that worsened the economic crisis during Bashir’s last years in power. ACJPS has been informed by a reliable source that transitional military council has ordered the central bank of Sudan to review all financial transfers since April 1 and to seize “suspect” funds.
On 25 April 2019, three army generals in the Transitional Military Council resigned following talks between the Council and protest leaders who are demanding a transfer of power to a civilian administration. Thousands of Sudanese peaceful protesters have continued their sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum demanding the transfer of power by army to a civilian government.
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies ACJPS. (English, Arabic, Swedish): +46764325862
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