Investigative Report: International Profiteers Looted Billions from South Sudan

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«The people responsible for violence and corruption in South Sudan often have strong links to the United Kingdom. We’ve found examples of warlords doing business with British citizens, U.K. nationals involved in possible embezzlement of South Sudanese state assets»

The Sentry’s Co-Founders George Clooney, John Prendergast and Senior Investigators Present Hard-Hitting Report at London Press Conference; World’s Fourth Largest Company Implicated in Funding Deadly Militias; Report Details Activities by Individuals and Companies in U.S., UK, Asia, Africa

September 19, 2019 (London, UK) — A new investigative report released today by The Sentry exposes an array of international profiteers from the U.S., UK, Asia, and Africa preying upon some of the most lucrative economic and government sectors in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan. As international businessmen and corrupt leaders within the country extracted billions in private profits, the people of South Sudan starved, were killed, and were driven from their homelands.

The findings of the report, “The Taking of South Sudan,” are now being presented at a press conference in London by the Co-Founders of The Sentry, George Clooney and John Prendergast, along with senior members of The Sentry’s investigative team. The report details the looting of state assets, exposes links to the family of South Sudan’s president, and reveals that the fourth largest company in the world, the China National Petroleum Corporation, provided direct support to deadly militias.

George Clooney, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “Dar Petroleum — a multinational oil consortium led by the China National Petroleum Corporation — is not just a passive beneficiary of the horrific status quo. The company has actively participated in the destruction of South Sudan. Dar Petroleum has supported deadly militias, polluted communities endangering hundreds of thousands of people, and paid off government officials along the way. Beyond that, corporations and tycoons from around the world have helped enable looting, money laundering, and human rights violations. We’re delivering the evidence to governments and banks around the world, in hopes that this helps to interrupt the cycle of corruption and violence.”

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: «Rather than just sanctioning one official at a time, the U.S. Treasury Department has frozen the U.S. assets and dollar-denominated transactions of entire networks of people and companies complicit in terrorism, nuclear proliferation, drug trafficking, and other illicit activity. We call upon the U.S. and U.K. governments to investigate and, if appropriate, impose these kinds of network sanctions on Dar Petroleum and others named in our report along with their business associates, enablers, and connected companies.»

According to the report, during South Sudan’s devastating civil war, international investors have been willing to form commercial partnerships with top politicians and members of their families. Many of these companies operate in sectors subject to significant government discretion or which have substantial links to violence.

Debra LaPrevotte, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “President’s Kiir’s 20-year-old daughter and her foreign business partners obtained a mining license for territory where the government’s military, under her father’s control, later drove thousands of people from the land — people subjected to some of the worst atrocities committed during the war. The conflict of interest is shocking.”

Brian Adeba, Deputy Director of Policy at The Enough Project, said: “The people responsible for violence and corruption in South Sudan often have strong links to the United Kingdom. We’ve found examples of warlords doing business with British citizens, U.K. nationals involved in possible embezzlement of South Sudanese state assets, and the beneficiaries of corruption buying homes here in London. It is crucial for the U.K. government to act. As we discuss in the report, the U.K. and other governments have the tools to investigative cases like these and take meaningful action.”

JR Mailey, Director of Investigations at The Sentry, said: “Profiteers from around the world have been willing to go into business with top politicians and military officials in South Sudan who are responsible for human rights abuses, and, in some cases have directly contributed to violence. Governments around the world have the tools to make sure that those who are complicit in these abuses face consequences.”

Selected highlights from the report:

  • A Chinese-led multinational oil company provided direct support to a deadly militia: “A multinational oil consortium in South Sudan controlled by China National Petroleum Corporation Dar Petroleum Operating Company — a multinational oil consortium led by China National Petroleum Corporation and Malaysia’s state-owned oil company, Petronas — provided material support to a pro-government militia that went on to commit atrocities, including burning of entire villages, targeting civilians, and an attack on a U.N. protection-of-civilians site.”
  • UK business with recruiter of child soldiers: “Two British citizens formed an oil company with a warlord [Lieutenant General David Yau Yau] accused of forcibly recruiting thousands of child soldiers… A 2013 report by the Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan, for example, found that Yau Yau’s troops ‘killed and raped civilians, looted property and slaughtered the livestock of those who will not join [his] rebellion.’”
  • American arms trafficker, South Sudanese warlord: “Ara Dolarian, an American arms dealer based in Fresno, California, attempted to sell $43 million worth of weapons in early 2018 to General Paul Malong, a South Sudanese warlord ousted from the government who was forming an armed opposition movement, according to filings by US federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of California.”
  • Hazardous waste dumped, hundreds of thousands of people at risk: “[A]n unpublished investigation commissioned by Dar Petroleum concluded that the company had dumped high levels of heavy metals and dangerous chemical compounds at its oil production facilities, threatening the local population. The resulting study, reviewed by The Sentry, indicates that Dar Petroleum chemicals contaminated areas outside of the company’s facilities. Other environmental researchers claim that Dar’s contamination has caused a public health challenge that is currently putting 600,000 people at risk from contaminated drinking water.”
  • Oil company paid $686,000 hotel bill for Oil Minister: “Correspondence reviewed by The Sentry shows that Dar Petroleum agreed to pay a $686,000 hotel bill for South Sudan’s then oil minister, Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol, a dual US-South Sudanese citizen.”

More key excerpts:

  • “Despite his reported involvement in multiple corruption scandals, a Sudanese tycoon [Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, also known as Al-Cardinal] tied to politicians and senior military officials in South Sudan continues to receive millions of dollars in contracts.”
  • “Chinese investors formed a company with President Salva Kiir’s daughter and acquired several mining licenses in South Sudan just weeks before the military reportedly drove thousands of people from the land where they held a permit.”
  • “In 2014, South Africa-based Vukani Aviation, owned by South African Nhlanhla Dube, formed a joint venture with the [National Security Services], a secretive police force within the president’s office reportedly responsible for abductions, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, violence against civilians and intimidation of international aid workers and foreign government delegations in South Sudan to monitor the peace agreement. Other documents reviewed by The Sentry show that Vukani is among several international firms that partnered with the NSS between 2014 and 2016.”
  • “Eritrean and other foreign investors were among the main beneficiaries of a $922 million program marred by fraud and embezzlement allegations.”

Policy recommendations: The report provides urgent recommendations for how governments and the private sector — especially banks — can disrupt the global financial networks that facilitate the looting of South Sudan. Key recommendations include:

  • The U.S., EU, UK, Australia, and Canada should investigate and if appropriate sanction the individuals, entities and networks highlighted in the report.
  • Governments and banks should apply robust anti-money laundering measures to stem illicit financial flows from South Sudan.
  • The US and other governments should take action to prevent the purchase of luxury real estate by South Sudanese elites and their international enablers.

Read the full report and policy recommendations: