Sudanese transitional authorities are engaged in the recovery of the ill-gotten gains of ex-President Omar al-Bachir and his entourage, but many of the stolen assets will be difficult to recover, experts say.
“The first estimates indicate that the value of land and immovable property illegally acquired by the men of the old regime oscillates between 3.5 and 4 million dollars”said Salah Manaa, spokesperson for the anti-corruption committee, which began work in December. “This is just the tip of the iceberg”, he said, adding that the committee, which works under the leadership of the military-civilian government established in August 2019, had “Not yet been able to get hold of the cash”.
Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in 1989 after a coup, was deposed by the military in April 2019, after four months of popular protests triggered by a three-fold increase in the price of bread. Convicted in December of two years’ imprisonment for corruption, the former autocrat is now detained in Kober’s prison in Khartoum. He is also the subject of two arrest warrants of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “War crimes”, “Crimes against humanity” and “Genocide” in Darfur.
According to a source familiar with the matter, the anti-corruption committee received “A large quantity of documents transferred in three trucks”, will be “Scrupulously studied”. Since its creation, the body has seized hotels, shopping centers, farms and hundreds of real estate ill-gotten by the ex-president and his entourage, including his former foreign and defense ministers, Ali Karti and Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.
Exhausted economy and American sanctions
However, faced with the difficulty of estimating the value of the embezzled assets, the committee will call on international experts before returning them to the state, Manaa said. “The corruption of the regime was very extensive and varied, some of it was cleverly concealed”, which complicates the task of the transitional authorities, judge Othmane Mirghani, editor of the newspaper Al-Tayyar and specialist in this matter. The recovery of property will “Require time and great expertise”, according to him.
The main blind spot of the investigation, the cash deposited by members of the old regime in the country’s banks is particularly difficult to access. “Money stored in banks is governed by laws that prohibit access to it by anyone other than its depositor”explains economist Mohamed al-Nayer, recalling that this is an internationally widespread law.
If the banking component skates, other assets are more easily recoverable, which could be beneficial for the Sudanese economy, out of breath after thirty years of disastrous management. “When they are owned by the state, real estate can be put up for auction and companies transformed into joint-stock companies, which will generate investment”, according to the economist. However, this horizon still seems distant and getting there will “Require time”, he nuances, indicating that the recovery procedure is long and involves several state actors.
Despite the hopes raised by the political transition, Khartoum has yet to revive a bloodless economy, which is still suffering from the 2011 secession of oil-rich South Sudan and decades of American sanctions. Although Washington lifted part of it in 2017, Sudan remains on the US blacklist of states supporting terrorism, which limits its investment prospects. The lack of foreign exchange and the inflation rate, which reached 99% in April, are fueling a lasting economic crisis.