Anti-corruption reforms in the Gambia must move forward

New revelations of comprehensive state capture and grand corruption under former president Yahya Jammeh should spur anti-corruption efforts to benefit the people of The Gambia, Transparency International said today.

Banking data leaks cited in reports published today by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP), appear to show that the value of state assets stolen by Jammeh and his cronies was far higher than previously estimated – at almost US$1billion, equivalent to one year of GDP and twice The Gambia’s external debt. During his 22-year rule, Jammeh allegedly looted the state pension fund for his own benefit, used the central bank as his private checking account, collaborated with terrorist financiers to launder millions and undervalue state assets, and stole millions in foreign aid.

Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International, said: “Jammeh’s reign appears to be a textbook case study of grand corruption at its most extreme. The now sadly familiar pattern included the predictable involvement of Western enablers who facilitated Jammeh’s theft of public monies in and out of The Gambia, while he violently oppressed his people and destroyed the country’s economy.”

The OCCRP reports raise concerns that – at the time of the massive money laundering out of The Gambia – UK and US banks may have failed to conduct sufficient due diligence in their business dealings with The Gambia.

“The fact that the French oil giant Total sold oil to Gambia’s state oil company through an intermediary company, which was later sanctioned by US authorities, demands explanation,” continued Moreira.

Since Jammeh was forced to leave office in 2017, Transparency International’s analysis shows that The Gambia has made significant anti-corruption progress. Notable achievements include the establishment of a Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriations Commission, which became active in January 2019. The process of recovering the overseas assets of Jammeh and his circle and returning them to benefit the people of The Gambia should continue as quickly as possible.

“It is vital that nothing close to this scale of grand corruption can ever happen again in The Gambia,” said Samuel Kaninda, Regional Advisor for West Africa at Transparency International. “The planned anti-corruption reform package pending before the government has to move forward, particularly with the finalisation of the anti-corruption law and the operationalisation of the anti-corruption commission. The Barrow administration must take steps to protect the space for both civil society and the media to operate freely.’’

Yayha Jammeh is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea, the country with the eighth highest level of public sector corruption in the world according to the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

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