The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has published a conference room paper in which it concludes that activities “consistent with trade-based money laundering” (TBML) were used to effect purchases of residential properties in London.
The commission says it has “reasonable grounds to believe” that four purchases were at least partially financed by funds misappropriated from the South Sudanese government.
Remitting and beneficiary banks identified in some of the purchases had not provided responses to the commission’s requests for information when the paper was written.
The Conference room paper of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan provides several examples of activities that point to the use of TBML in the misappropriation of South Sudanese government funds.
In one of these the commission was able to identify four payments made by the ministry of finance and economic planning between January 2016 and May 2018 which were for the benefit of, and companies related to, Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein, otherwise known as Al Cardinal. The total value of these payments amounts to US$69 million.
The commission then inspected the UK Land Registry which provides a public register of property ownership. Enquiries show, for example, that a central London penthouse flat was purchased by Ashraf S A Hussein in August 2018 for £11 million (US$15 million). This purchase was made approximately three months after Al Cardinal Investment received a US$30 million payment from the ministry.
The register extract shows that Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein (Al-Cardinal) owns at least six London properties bought at a combined purchase price of more than £21 million (US$28.7 million).
The commission noted a series of suspicious factors in the four payments identified between the ministry and companies Al Cardinal General Trading, Green For Logistics Services, and Al Cardinal Investment.
For example, two payments totalling almost US$20 million were made on the same day to different companies which have the same ultimate beneficial owner. Amongst several other suspicious factors, the report notes that these three companies do not appear to have any internet presence which would suggest active trading.
Meanwhile witnesses interviewed by the commission – who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals – have confirmed the prevalent use of “ghost contracts” to misappropriate and launder government funds.
After noting yet more suspicious activities surrounding the four London property purchases the commission concludes that it has “reasonable grounds to believe that the four payments, in full or part, each represented the misappropriation of government funds”.
The commission “further notes with concern that the activity described above is consistent with TBML”.
In the course of its enquiries for the paper, the commission made formal requests to Stanbic Bank and Commercial Bank International seeking more information regarding suspicious transactions.
At the time of writing (August 2021), the commission says it had received no responses to its requests.
The Conference room paper of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan can be found here.
Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News