The Justice Department on Thursday announced it has seized a Maryland property that was purchased by former Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh. File Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/Upi | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors announced Thursday the forfeiture of a Maryland property they accuse former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of having purchased with millions of dollars acquired through corruption.
The Potomac, Md., property cost the former president some $3.5 million the Justice Department said was the product of the misappropriation of stolen public funds and the solicitation of bribes from businesses seeking monopoly rights over sectors of the Gambian economy.
"Maryland real estate is not a shelter for fund for corrupt rulers who have stolen from their countrymen," U.S. Attorney Erek Barron for the District of Maryland said in a statement.
Jammeh came to the helm of Gambia at the age of 29 in a military coup and ran the African nation until he lost the 2016 presidential election.
After leaving office following international pressure, he fled with his family and assets to Equatorial Guinea, where he currently resides.
His presidency was marred by public corruption and human rights violations, with two commissions set up after he left office revealing he misappropriated more than $300 million from public accounts as well as extorted and received millions of dollars in bribes, federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned him in 2017, freezing his U.S. assets. The Gambian government had also taken similar measures against him.
The Justice Department had filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the property in July 2020, stating the former president had purchased it through a trust established by his wife, Zineb Jammed.
According to the complaint, Jammeh accumulated at least 281 properties during his time in office despite earning a salary of no more than a couple thousand dollars a month and having no substantial independent sources of income and neither him nor his wife appearing to have family wealth to explain the acquisitions.
Along with the properties, which were registered in his name or in companies and foundations he has interests in, he operated more than 100 private bank accounts, the document states.
"Jammeh's pattern of corruption included soliciting and extorting bribes from businesses operating in The Gambia and causing funds to be withdrawn in cash from The Gambia's Central Bank with little or no paperwork to describe or justify the use of these public funds," the complaint said.
Prosecutors said Jammeh would grant monopoly rights over sectors of the Gambian economy, such as fuel importation and telecommunication rights, to businesses in exchange for bribes and kickbacks and though the rights granted were for a period of time he would threaten to rescind unless he was given further bribes.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it intends to sell the property "and recommend to the attorney general that the net proceeds from the sale of the forfeited property be used to benefit the people of The Gambia harmed by former President Jammeh's acts of corruption and abuse of power."
The announcement came a day after the government of Gambian President Adama Barrow said it plans to prosecute Jammeh.