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US officials seek to seize $3.5m property belonging to Yahya Jammeh over corruption

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Yahyah Jammeh

The United States Department of Justice is seeking to seize a $3.5 million property in Maryland owned by former president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, over its link with corruption.

The Department says in a press release issued July 15, 2020 that it has filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of the property acquired with money from corruption through a trust set up by the wife of Jammeh, Zineb Jammeh.

In the filed complaint, the Department says Jammeh corruptly obtained millions of dollars through the embezzlement of public funds and the solicitation of bribes from businesses seeking to obtain monopoly rights over various sectors of the Gambian economy.  It further alleges that Jammeh conspired with his family members and close associates to utilize a host of shell companies and overseas trusts to launder his corrupt proceeds throughout the world, including through the purchase of a multimillion-dollar mansion in Potomac, Maryland, which the United States seeks to forfeit through the filing of the civil forfeiture complaint.

Commenting, US Attorney for the District of Maryland, Robert K. Hur said, “Ex-Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and his wife thought that they could hide funds stolen from the Gambian people by buying a mansion in Potomac, Maryland.  This action demonstrates that the United States will not allow criminals to profit from their crimes and will seek justice for crime victims both here and abroad.”

“Our action today highlights the tireless work of the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Initiative and their global law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of the US financial system and recover the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt, was cited as saying.

The Acting Executive Associate Director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Alysa Erichs said; “The seizure of this property is just another example of our continued efforts to protect the US financial infrastructure by denying a safe haven for foreign kleptocrats. HSI will not tolerate our country being used by foreign officials to hide their corrupt activities and launder their illicit proceeds.”

According to the release, the investigation was conducted by HSI’s Illicit Proceeds and Foreign Corruption Group in Miami, with the assistance of the HSI Office of the Special Agent in Charge for Baltimore and the HSI Attaché Office in Dakar.  HSI established this group in 2003 to conduct investigations into the laundering of proceeds emanating from foreign public corruption, bribery and embezzlement.  HSI’s goal is to prevent foreign-derived, ill-gotten gains from entering the US financial infrastructure, it added.

The release indicates that the case is being handled by Trial Attorneys Steven Parker and Kaycee Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Wine for the District of Maryland.  Substantial assistance was provided by the government of The Gambia and Michael Quinley of the Criminal Division’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training.

Yahya Jammeh, an Army Lieutenant took power in a bloodless coup on July 22, 1994 in The Gambia. He was 29 years old at the time. The country has a population of about two million, and it’s mostly agrarian, depending mostly on tourism as the backbone of its economy.

Jammeh held onto power for 22 years, after running the country with an iron-grip. He lost an election held on December 1, 2016, but refused to concede. However, protests erupted around the country, forcing him to eventually negotiate his exit and flee into exile to Equatorial Guinea.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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