Sudan dismisses allegation Bashir has billions abroad

AMSTERDAM, (Reuters) – Sudan today dismissed  allegations President

Omar Hassan al-Bashir
Omar Hassan al-Bashir

had deposited up to  $9 billion overseas, saying it was impossible because of  sanctions.
Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)  Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters today, after the  allegations appeared in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable:
“I am investigating the financial aspects and we have  information about Bashir’s money. I can confirm that it is up to  $9 billion.”
Moreno-Ocampo is pursuing a case against Bashir accusing him  of masterminding genocide and war crimes in Sudan’s western  province of Darfur.
The cable published by WikiLeaks suggested disclosure of  Bashir’s wealth could turn Sudanese opinion against him.
“In my experience as a prosecutor, when you have these types  of crimes, if they steal money it helps to delegitimise them,”  Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters.
Asked whether he expected Bashir to be arrested soon, he  said: “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.”
He added: “I have requested the arrest, but I cannot  implement the arrest, it’s the government of Sudan’s mandate.”
Bashir refuses to recognise the international court and has  continued to travel, despite arrest warrants issued by ICC  judges. His defiance has gained him support in Sudan, especially  in the Muslim north where many are suspicious of the West.
“It is just propaganda — Ocampo using false information to  create political pressure,” said information ministry official  Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of Bashir’s National Congress  Party (NCP).
“I don’t think President Bashir has a bank account in Europe  or America or the Arab world. If President Bashir had a bank  account in his name or anther name it would be very easy for  them to confiscate it,” Abdelati told Reuters in Khartoum.
“We are challenging them to say where the money is kept. If  they can find this account then we give them license to take the  money inside it as a prize.”
Another senior Sudanese official, who asked not to be named,  said: “It is incorrect and cannot be possibly be true.
“Sudan is heavily sanctioned. There is a lot of surveillance  around Sudan. How could President Bashir put this amount in a  Western bank?”
In the cable published by WikiLeaks, diplomats quoted  Moreno-Ocampo as saying “Lloyd’s Bank in London” might be  holding Bashir’s funds or know their location.
Asked about Lloyds <LLOY.L> today, the prosecutor  said: “The money is not in Lloyds, the connection is that they  (Lloyds) have some official accounts with the government of  Sudan” and therefore might be able to help with information.
A Lloyds spokesperson told Reuters: “We have absolutely no  evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds  Banking Group and Mr Bashir. The group’s policy is to abide by  the legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions in  which we operate.”
The United States imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in  1997 over its human rights record and alleged sponsorship of  terrorism and tightened them further in 2007 in response to the  conflict in Darfur.
The U.S. sanctions froze all Sudanese government assets  inside the United States.
Britain and the European Union have not imposed sanctions.  But U.S. authorities have become increasingly aggressive towards  European banks dealing with people linked to Sudan.
Last year, Lloyds agreed to forfeit $350 million over  charges that it faked records so that clients from Iran, Sudan  and elsewhere could do business in the U.S. banking system.

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