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US urges crackdown on S. Sudan war money invested in Kenya

June 14, 2018 (NAIROBI) - The United States has urged the Kenya government to investigate properties and assets owned South Sudanese officials who are benefitting from the country’s war.

US Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Ms Sigal Mandelker (Daily Monitor)

The US Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, said well-placed South Sudanese, have continued to invest illicit money in Kenya’s real estate market.

"I wanna be very clear, those who profit from human rights violations and corruption, preying on the poor and innocent and mothers and children, must heed our warning," she told reporters on Wednesday.

"We will impose consequences, we will cut off your access to the US financial system and we will work with our partners in this region and elsewhere to do the same," added the official who earlier visited Uganda and will later head to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In September 2016, The Sentry, a US-based investigative group, accused South Sudanese leaders of transferring millions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth outside the country during a civil war that left nearly half the population homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Its report accused President Salva Kiir and some of his top associates, along with former vice-president Riek Machar, as having invested millions of dollars in real estate in Kenya, Uganda as well as Australia.

The senior US official told reporters in Nairobi, Kenya that she met with top officials in Kenya’s government and the banking sector to urge them to watch out for money laundering from South Sudan.

I asked them to ban South Sudanese who have been on a US black list since 2015 and to freeze their bank accounts and seize their properties, observed Mandelke.

"Those who profit on of the backs of individuals who are devastated by human rights abuses will no longer have access to the international financial system because we will block that access, kick them out and we will work together to eliminate such despicable profiteering,” she stressed.

The Treasury under-secretary urged officials in Nairobi and Kampala to close loopholes that allow transfer of illicit funds from South Sudan.

John Prendergast, a co-founder of The Sentry said Tuesday that 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,” said Prendergast.

“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,” he added.

The Sentry urged US law enforcement bodies to launch independent investigations to determine if properties in Kenya and Uganda were bought in US dollars with the proceeds of corruption