Rights group urges US official to tackle S. Sudan money laundering

(JUBA) – United States Department of the Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker’s should pressure Uganda into discouraging laundering of proceeds of corruption from South Sudan, an advocacy group said.

The senior US official, will starting 11 June, visit sub-Saharan countries of Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He is expected, among other issues, to discuss with various officials the illicit financial flows fueling the devastating conflict in South Sudan and massive corruption and human rights abuses in the DRC during the visit.

The Sentry, in a statement issued on Sunday, said actions in Uganda to seize the proceeds of corruption and stop the flow of ill-gotten gains are necessary to push South Sudan’s leaders toward peace.

The advocacy group, in a September 2016 report, accused South Sudanese leaders of transferring millions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth outside the country during a civil war that left nearly half the country’s people homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

The report said President Salva Kiir and some of his top associates, along with former vice-president Riek Machar, as having invested millions of dollars in real estate in Kenya, Uganda as well as Australia.

“Laundering the proceeds of corruption is also in direct violation of Ugandan law, which raises significant concerns about Uganda’s implementation of international standards for combatting anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing, and presents an ongoing impediment to Uganda’s efforts to develop as a commercial center in the region,” partly says the Sentry’s statement.

Mandelker should reiterate that failure by Uganda to address these issues will be met with escalating set of pressures, it further stressed.

According John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Sentry and founding director of the Enough Project, every year, billions of aid dollars pour into the African continent to fund peacekeeping forces, humanitarian assistance, elections, and peace processes.

“But in countries like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, none of this support has been able to keep corrupt leaders and their network of family and commercial collaborators from stealing billions of dollars while using war, repression, and mass atrocities to maintain their grip on state power,” said Prendergast.

He added, “Financial tools of pressure, such as those available to the U.S. Treasury Department, can play a powerful role in creating actual consequences and the leverage necessary to stop corrupt figures from using violence and other means to maintain or gain power.”

The Sentry earlier reported that current and former senior South Sudanese officials, including three subject to US sanctions – General Gabriel Jok Riak, Lieutenant General Malek Reuben Riak, and former army chief Paul Malong Awan, appeared to have been able to launder corrupt assets into the purchase of real estate in Uganda.

“The Sentry urges serious financial pressure with meaningful consequences – this is not only possible, but critically necessary to protect civil liberties and freedoms in Sub-Saharan Africa. The key ingredients to a more effective cocktail of U.S.-led financial leverage are network sanctions and anti-money laundering measures, working hand-in-glove,” Prendergast recently told a US Congress hearing.

(First Published by ST)

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