Sudan’s Bashir charged with illegal use of foreign funds

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir (right) appears in court in the capital Khartoum yesterday to face charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. – AFP

ousted president Omar Al-Bashir was charged in court yesterday with illegal
acquisition and use of foreign funds, offences that could land him behind bars
for more than a decade.  Bashir, who was
deposed in April following months of mass protests against his rule, appeared
in court in a black metal cage wearing the country’s traditional white attire
and turban.

Judge Al-Sadiq
Abdelrahman outlined the charges at what was the third session of the trial,
saying foreign funds of multiple currencies were found at his home. Authorities
had “seized 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds at
(Bashir’s) home which he acquired and used illegally”, said Abdelrahman.

Speaking for the
first time in court, the 75-year-old Bashir said the seized funds were the
remainder of the equivalent of $25 million that he had received from the Saudi
crown prince.  “My office manager…
received a call from the office of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman saying
he has a ‘message’ that will be sent on a private jet,” Bashir told the

“We were
told that the crown prince did not want his name to appear (linked to the
transaction)… and if the funds were deposited with Sudan’s bank or the
finance ministry, the source would have to be identified,” he said.  Dozens of Bashir’s relatives attended
yesterday’s session, chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)” as he
entered the courtroom pointing his index finger to the sky.


Bashir failed to
specify when the funds were received but said they “were not used for
private interests but as donations”. The funds were used to support
individuals and entities including wheat import companies, a university and a
hospital, he said. Sudanese law punishes illegal acquisition of wealth by up to
10 years in jail while illicit use of foreign funds carries up to three years,
according to judge Abdelrahman. Bashir’s defense lawyers insisted their client
was “not guilty” and said witnesses would be brought to court.
“We have witnesses, proof and documents that we will present to court to
refute these charges,” said lawyer Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Taher.

An investigator
had previously told the court that Bashir received $90 million in cash from
Saudi royals including payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King
Abdullah, who died in 2015.  After
two-and-a-half hours, the judge ordered that the trial be adjourned until
September 7. He was escorted to and from the Khartoum courthouse by a convoy of
military vehicles, as dozens of his supporters were gathered outside waving
Sudanese flags.

Other charges

Following his
ouster, Bashir was transferred to the capital’s maximum-security Kober prison,
where thousands of political prisoners were held during his 30 years in
power.   Sudan has embarked on a
transition to civilian rule following a power-sharing deal signed on August 17
by protest leaders and the generals who ousted Bashir. A civilian-military
ruling body is now at the helm to steer the country through a three-year
transitional period. Protesters have called for Bashir to face justice not just
over corruption but for his role in the country’s deadly conflicts as well as
repression of dissent.

Bashir is wanted
by the Hague-based International Criminal Court over his role in mass killings
in the western region of Darfur. More than 300,000 people were killed and 2.5
million displaced in the conflict which erupted in 2003, according to the
United Nations.

“Now is the
time for the people of Sudan to choose law over impunity and ensure that the
ICC suspects in the Darfur situation finally face justice in a court of
law,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council in June.
Sudan’s prosecutor general has said Bashir would also be charged over the
killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

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