In a new brief released on Wednesday, The Sentry urges Kenyan, Ugandan, and U.S. authorities to investigate and seize proceeds of corruption from South Sudan’s war that are sheltered in real estate throughout East Africa.
Nearly two years ago, an investigation by The Sentry identified properties in Nairobi and Kampala in the possession of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, former Vice-President Riek Machar, and other current and former senior officials. Kenya and Uganda have the legal authority and means to locate, investigate, and — if warranted — seize these properties.
These homes in exclusive Nairobi and Kampala neighbourhoods may have been bought with the proceeds of corruption, The Sentry said two years ago and repeated on Tuesday.
President Salva Kiir owns a family home in Nairobi’s upmarket Lavington as does his nemesis rebel chief Riek Machar, according to The Sentry.
Former army chief Paul Malong maintains a $2 million mansion in the wealthy Nyari Estate in Nairobi, the group adds, stating that Gen Malong was paid about $45,000 a year in his military position.
General Malong also owns two luxury homes in Uganda, The Sentry notes.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “New financial pressures would disrupt the lifestyle of any South Sudanese officials found to have engaged in corruption, as well as that of their families, to bend these officials’ personal incentives toward peace and an end to the devastating war. We hope Under Secretary Mandelker’s engagement with Kenyan authorities and banks will spark official inquiries into real estate purchased by South Sudanese officials potentially to hide unexplained wealth obtained in the context of war. Investigating, and if appropriate, seizing these homes would provide tremendous leverage for the peace process, and would be a critical step toward accountability for the systematic looting and mass atrocities committed since the country’s independence in 2011.”
The Sentry recommends the following steps to pursue immediate action to reverse the apparent real estate trend:
Kenyan and Ugandan Authorities could open investigations into the identified properties and work with US law enforcement to coordinate joint cases. Because Kenya, Uganda and the United States are signatories to the UN Convention against Corruption, the legal framework allows for the United States to file asset seizure warrants abroad if it were determined that a property is eligible to be seized.
United States Law Enforcement could launch independent investigations to determine if properties in Kenya and Uganda were bought in US dollars with the proceeds of corruption. Based on documents viewed by The Sentry, some real estate was likely bought with US dollars. As part of an investigation, an interagency team led by the US Department of Justice could travel to the region to partner with local law enforcement.
United States Treasury Department could declare the purchase of real estate outside South Sudan by government-connected elites to be a primary money-laundering concern. The Treasury Department could further refine this action by specifying a range of values of property that are particularly of concern — for example, properties whose value exceeds $300,000.
By issuing a public finding on the damaging trend of South Sudanese officials buying real estate that in some cases may be used to hide illicit funds, financial institutions would need to take special measures to address the financial abuse. This would be a specific step to build on the Treasury Department Advisory, issued on June 12, highlighting the ways the real estate sector serves as a vehicle for corruption by Politically Exposed Persons.
• East Africa’s Banks could proactively flag high-value real estate transactions by South Sudanese elites for financial investigators and increase due diligence measures when transacting with Juba-based government officials, their families, and their proxies.