US secures forfeiture of Maryland property of ex-Gambian ruler

Prosecutors say Yahya Jammeh corruptly obtained millions of dollars by stealing public funds and soliciting bribes.

Gambia''s President Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh
Jammeh seized power of the tiny West African nation in a 1994 coup and ruled the country until 2016 [File: Reuters]

The United States Department of Justice (JOC) says it has secured the forfeiture of a Maryland property purchased by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh with about $3.5m in alleged corruption proceeds.

In a statement on Thursday, the JOC said a court-ordered judgement and order of forfeiture had been given on Tuesday.

The judgement was the result of a civil forfeiture complaint filed by the US in 2020 seeking the forfeiture of the Montgomery County estate purchased in 2010 by Jammeh through a trust set up by his wife Zineb Jammeh.

“The United States intends to sell the property, and recommend to the Attorney General that the net proceeds from the sale of the forfeited property be used to benefit the people of The Gambia harmed by former President Jammeh’s acts of corruption and abuse of office,” the JOC said.

Jammeh, who seized power in the tiny West African nation in a 1994 coup, initially refused to concede defeat in a 2016 election to the current President Adama Barrow.

But he fled into exile after the intervention of troops from the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

He now lives in Equatorial Guinea, which has no extradition treaty with The Gambia and has denied allegations of wrongdoing, including corruption, levelled against him.

The US alleged that Jammeh corruptly obtained millions of dollars through the misappropriation of stolen public funds and by soliciting bribes from businesses seeking to obtain monopoly rights in various sectors of the Gambian economy.

“This case demonstrates our ability to work with foreign partners to secure the forfeiture of assets allegedly derived from illicit bribes and stolen funds despite complex attempts to disguise the proceeds and their intended recipients,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite Jr of the department’s criminal division.

The statement came on the same day the government in The Gambia said it had accepted recommendations by a truth and reconciliation commission that Jammeh be prosecuted for murder, rape, torture and other alleged crimes committed during his 22-year presidency.

Its justice ministry had said on Wednesday that it accepted all but two of the 265 recommendations made by the commission.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies